PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, June 5, 2022 – The Cuban team, champion since the second day, said goodbye with a victory over Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-21) to conclude their undefeated performance in the Challenger Final Four at Sala 19 de Noviembre, which on the final day was cheerfully cheered on by the local fans.
As in the previous two challenges, the host technical director, Nicolás Vives, made changes according to the trend in this tournament, since his pupils have just grouped up after their participation in foreign leagues and he needs to see them all play.
Even so, it was a very uncomfortable opponent for the young Puerto Rican team, which in all aspects was inferior in attack (44-25), blocking (7-6) and serving (10-1). Puerto Rico finished fourth with three losses.
Corner player Marlon Yant led the offense with 12 points, escorted by spiker Osniel Mergarejo and center back Roamy Alonso. For the rivals, the opposite Gregory Torres was the one who achieved the most points with 8.
Nicolás Vives, coach of Cuba: “The match was good, the boys came out with desire, the important thing was the victory and we achieved it, that was the objective. Now we have a month of preparation in Havana, vital and key to organizing physical and technical-tactical situations until we reach the Final Six in Mexico in July, then the World Challenger at the end and the Pan American Cup in early August, already on the way to the World Championship”.
“In general, everyone in the boys plays well, it is a generation that has been new for five years and we are working with it, which is the most important thing to achieve great things. The dream has always been to be in the Olympic Games, we have the world championship ahead of us, we can achieve good results, although we have to work hard because it is an extremely strong tournament, but the team is fine and we are going to meet our goal.
Marlon Yant, top scorer of the challenge: “It was a game with ups and downs, we made some mistakes that we can iron out over time. We had an opponent who knows how to play volleyball, but I think that when we start training next week we are going to win in preparation for the competitions that are coming our way”.
“This year the team has big commitments like the South Korea Challenger in July and our goal is to fight to qualify for the League of Nations, and in August the World Championship, in which we hope to have a good performance. On an individual level, I’m meeting my teammates in passing, receiving and communicating with them, which is very important”.
Setter Arturo Iglesias, captain of the Puerto Rico team: “I think we could never find a rhythm in the match, the reception was not good, they won the match with the serve and forcing us the tough play, that is, outside the net , high, uncomfortable, but we never managed to make that adjustment.”
“I think that with a team against Cuba the matches must be long if we want to beat them, we have to beat them on the ground, in reception, in serving and in passing, and we could never do that. Avoid as many mistakes. We have to work hard, mature more as a team, we have a lot of young talent, but we have to train a lot more if we want to have results”.