Puerto Rico Makes it into Semifinals Winning Pool B to Cuba

COLIMA, Mexico, June 19, 2024.- Puerto Rico advanced to the semifinals of the inaugural Boys U17 Pan American Cup in Colima, after defeating Cuba 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-17) to secure the top spot in Pool B.

With a 2-0 record in the preliminary round, Puerto Rico earned a direct ticket to Friday’s semifinals. Cuba will face Guatemala in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Puerto Rico outperformed Cuba in attacks (40-34) and service points (7-2). Cuba led in blocks by a narrow margin of 7-6. Errors were balanced, with Puerto Rico committing 21 and Cuba 23.

Three Puerto Rican outside hitters scored in double digits. Maximiliano Aponte led the team with 14 points (9 attacks, 2 blocks, 3 aces), followed by Gustavo Alvarez with 13 points, all on kills, and Adrián Carrillo with 10 points (9 attacks, one block).

For Cuba, Samuel Rodríguez was the top scorer of the match with 15 points (12 attacks, 2 blocks, one ace).

Cuba started strong, jumping to a five-point lead (18-13) in the first set but couldn’t maintain it. Puerto Rico came from behind with attacks from Gustavo Alvarez and blocks by Maximiliano Aponte. Middle Julio Acosto with a kill, prevented Puerto Rico from winning at 24-23, but a kill from Adrián Carrillo and an ace from Jose Soriano secured the set for Puerto Rico. In the second set, Puerto Rico and Cuba tied several times, but from point 18 onwards, Puerto Rico held the lead. Puerto Rico opened the third set with a 3-0 run, extended their lead to 17-9, and sealed the victory at 25-17 with an attack by Adrián Carrillo.

Puerto Rico

Maximiliano Aponte, Puerto Rico’s top scorer, said, “The game was tough. Cuba has tall players and strong attackers, but with what we’ve practiced, we managed the match and got the victory. We kept our spirits high and executed well in defense, blocking, and serving”.

Cuban outside hitter Byron Herrera commented, “We started strong, but we relaxed because we had the lead in the first set, and Puerto Rico took full advantage of that. I think we need to improve our mental game. The more we play, the more opportunities we have to get better.”