HAVANA, Cuba, June 10, 2023.- Cuba is the new U21 Men’s Norceca Pan American champion after beating defending champion United States in a sensational gold medal match 3-2 (21-25, 21-25, 30-28, 25-15, 15-11) in heated two hours and 16 minutes in front of hundreds of fans at the city’s coliseum.
It seemed that the visitors would return home again with the title, the hosts reacted, they moved ahead winning the second and third sets to seal in the fifth, not before a great battle from both teams, in which the home team held advantage in kills (52-47), but in blocks (17-16) and serves (9-8) it was by a slight margin.
Opposite hitter Alejandro Miguel González once again showed his leadership as the leading scorer with 26 points and was joined in the offense by outside hitters Bryan Camino (22) and José Ramón Gómez (10), and middle Jakdiel Contreras (10), while other middle, Alexis Wilson, added 8.
In the previous edition the United States defeated Mexico in the title match, who wasn’t in the event, while Canada took the bronze medal over Cuba. On this occasion, Canada finished in the same position, but beating Puerto Rico.
Jesús Cruz, host head coach said “first we achieved our goal of improving last year’s fourth place. We had a meeting to study that we weren’t going to lose today, we came to win, there was no need to reserve anything, nothing to take care of, it was only one match to give our best and if the opponent was successful, it was with the best version of Cuba. Things didn’t work in the first two sets, but we were able to recover, the best thing this group had in the tournament was the possibility for change. If the opponent changed its tactics we would as well and that’s how we kept the entire match. In the end it turned out better for everyone”.
The team leader, Alejandro Miguel González, expressed “we had the opportunity, and we took advantage of winning games in tie-break, we grew facing difficulties and that’s why we’re celebrating the gold medal match. From 2022 to now all the players have grown, before we were more dependent on each other, this time around we all pushed the same and deserved the awards. We played as a team”.
Veteran coach of the United States, Andy Read, said “we wanted to finish the match in the third set, which we almost did because we were up 2-0, but we didn’t. The crowd supported their team in their win. A close game was expected and the way it went it could have gone either way. I am glad to see how my players performed and how they faced the tournament”.
Nyerovwome Omene, U.S. captain expressed “facing Cuba and in Cuba is always good and fun. We also had the opportunity to meet in pool-play and we enjoyed both matches. We are happy about that, despite the loss. Now we must continue to the U21 World Championship”.