Puerto Rico Upsets Mexico to Reach the U21 NORCECA Semifinals

NOGALES, Mexico, June 14, 2024.- Puerto Rico upset Mexico 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 25-22), winning the quarterfinal match to reach the semifinals of the Men’s U21  NORCECA Continental Championship in Nogales, Mexico.

Puerto Rico will face Canada in the semifinal on Saturday, in a pool-play rematch won by Canada. Mexico will compete for positions 5 to 8, starting with Nicaragua.

Puerto Rico emerged victorious with an advantage of 53 to 46 in attacks and a slight edge of 4-3 in aces. Both teams were tied at 10 in blocks. Mexico made one less error than Puerto Rico (29-30).

Diego Estrada PUR

Outside hitter Antonio Rivera scored a tournament-high  of 28 points (26 attacks, one block, one ace), in Puerto Rico’s win. Also contributing to the victory were outside hitter Diego López with 13 points (12 attacks, one block) and middle blocker Janluar Figueroa with 11 points (7 attacks, a match-high of 4 blocks).

Mexico’s outside hitter Brandon Ramírez scored 18 points (16 attacks, 2 blocks) and opposite Cristian Cadena added 11 points, all from attacks.

It was a party of points in a balanced match. All four sets were closely contested. In the first set, they were tied at 17 points, and it was the Puerto Ricans who managed to gain a crucial two-point lead (23-21) on a Mexican error and a kill from López, allowing Rivera to close it with an ace. Mexico tied by winning the second set, reaching a five-point lead (18-13) with points shared by Cadena, Cravioto, and Ramírez. Puerto Rico came back from a six-point deficit (5-11) in the fourth set thanks to the offensive efforts of Rivera, López, and Figueroa.

Ramón Rosado, captain of Puerto Rico, said, “It feels incredibly satisfying because two years ago in Guatemala, in the U19 category, this group beat us in the semifinals. We prepared very well, and I must give credit to the fans, who made it challenging for us. We came together as one to achieve this victory. I believe our reception, outside hitters, and middle blockers performed excellently, but the most crucial factors were our composure and unity to execute what the coach planned after the tough matches against Cuba and Canada”.

Jorge Romero, coach of Mexico, said, “The difference was Puerto Rico’s aggressiveness and determination, which we lacked. Every time Puerto Rico had possession of the ball, they were determined to attack. We were too hesitant.”