Canada stages massive comeback versus Cuba

After dropping the first two sets against Team Cuba, the Canadian men’s team refused to quit, winning the next three sets to defeat the Cubans 3-2 (22-25, 22-25, 25-12, 25-21, 15-9) in day two of the NORCECA Men’s Tokyo Qualification Tournament.

With the victory, the Canadian men sit 2-0 in the tournament and are the only undefeated team.

For the second day in a row, Stephen Maar led the way for Canada, collecting 21 points. Behind Maar, Ryan Sclater had a big game with 20 points, with Hoag coming in third with 11.

 “There’s no word for this game,” said team veteran Nicholas Hoag after the match. “We focused in on our game plan because there were some specific things we had to do and we executed it really well. We had to stay aggressive and we got the win in the end.”

Head coach Glenn Hoag also spoke after the victory, “We were controlling the match from a defensive perspective. Our offense was struggling and scoring – they were playing well.”

“We’re not done. We don’t have our ticket to Tokyo,” said Hoag. “Puerto Rico is playing well; they beat Mexico in straight sets. We’re going to go stretch, eat, get some rest and be ready for tomorrow.”

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Cuba dominates Puerto Rico

Cuba's opening match of the tournament was a straight set victory over Puerto Rico 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-19) on Friday night at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, Canada.

 

Marlon Yant and Miguel Lopez finished with 13 and 10 points for Cuba. Pelegrín Vargas had 10 for Puerto Rico.

 

"Today’s game was pretty good. We played our game,” said Cuba’s coach Nicolas Vives. “I think we can play better than we played today. Tomorrow we go against Canada which has a great team. We’re going to be playing point by point and we’re going to fight until the end.

 

Puerto Rican Maurice Torres regretted the many mistakes committed by his team and blamed them for the loss.

 

"We just made way too many errors” Torres said. “You can compete as much as you can until you start making errors like we did. That’s what changed the entire match.”

 

Livan Rodriguez Osoria, captain of Cuba: "We’re going to be ready for tomorrow which will define the qualification for Tokyo. We are ready for tomorrow’s game. We can’t wait to play against Canada. They’re a great team and we’ll be ready for them."

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FIVE OLYMPIC VACANCIES AT STAKE AS FIVE CONTINENTAL QUALIFIERS SET FOR KICK-OFF

The five vacancies in the men’s volleyball tournament of the 2020 Olympic Games that are still available are about to be contested at various venues on all five continents over the next few days and the line-up for Tokyo 2020 should be finalized by January 12.
The winners of the five continental qualification tournaments will claim the last five tickets (one per continental confederation) to Tokyo and will join hosts Japan, as well as the teams of Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Poland, Russia and USA who advanced through the intercontinental qualifiers in August, in the quest for the most coveted medals in the sports world.
CEV qualification tournament
European squads will be the first to get into action, as their eight-team qualifier gets underway on Sunday, January 5, at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin. The participants are split into two round-robin pools to be played over four consecutive days on the way to the January 9 semifinals, matching the pool winners against the pool runners-up, and the big final on January 10 to decide the quota.
Hosts Germany have played at the Olympics twice as East Germany, once as Germany and another two times after the reunification, most recently finishing fifth at London 2012. Their best result is the Munich 1972 silver for GDR. Germany’s toughest opposition in Pool A is likely to be presented by Slovenia, a team that never made it to the Olympics, but claimed silver medals at two of the three most recent European Championships, in 2015 and 2019. Also in that pool are Belgium, looking for their second Olympic appearance, after the eighth place way back in 1968, and the Czech Republic, who have never been to the Olympics as such, but showcase one silver (1964) and one bronze (1968) medals out of their five appearances in the first five Olympic tournaments through 1980 as Czechoslovakia.
Reigning 2019 European champions Serbia, gold medallists at Sydney 2000 and bronze medallists at Atlanta 1996 as Serbia and Montenegro, are aiming at their seventh Olympic participation overall. They and the team of France, who played at four editions of the Games and finished ninth in 2016, seem to be the big favourites to make the semis from Pool B, but they will have to face the strong challenge of Bulgaria, silver medallists at Moscow 1980 and looking for their ninth trip to the Olympics, and the Netherlands, Atlanta 1996 champions and Barcelona 1992 runners-up, attempting to register their seventh appearance at the Games.
AVC qualification tournament
Asian teams will be the next to join the race to Tokyo 2020, as the AVC qualification tournament kicks off in Jiangmen on January 7 in the same format as the one of CEV – eight teams, divided into two round-robin pools leading up to crossed semifinals and a final – to stamp one Olympic visa on January 12.
In Pool A, hosts China, most recently finishing fifth at home at Beijing 2008, are targeting their third Olympic appearance, in the company of reigning 2019 Asian champions Iran, who finished fifth at Rio 2016, their only Olympic participation so far, as well as Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei, who have never made it to the Games as such.
2019 Asian Championship runners-up Australia, who ranked eighth at home at Sydney 2000 and played at two more editions of the Games afterwards, lead the way in Pool B, with eight-time Olympic participants Korea as their main contender. India and Qatar will also start the Jiangmen tournament in Pool B, hoping to book Olympic tickets for the first time in history. 
CAVB qualification tournament
A single round-robin tournament with five participating teams will produce the single African representative at Tokyo 2020. Egyptian capital Cairo will host the CAVB qualification battles over five consecutive days, from January 7 through 11.
Tournament hosts Egypt represented their continent at the most recent edition of the Games, in Rio, where they placed ninth. It was their best result out of four Olympic appearances. Tunisia, the African nation with most Olympic experience and reigning 2019 continental champion, have a good shot at booking their seventh trip to the Games. The ninth place at Los Angeles 1984 is their best standing so far. In 1992, Algeria crossed the Mediterranean to finish 12th at the Barcelona Olympics. Now they are aiming at their second Olympic appearance. The squads of Ghana and African championship runners-up Cameroon will also take their chances at claiming their first ever Olympic visa.
CSV qualification tournament
With both South American standouts, Brazil and Argentina, having already booked their Tokyo 2020 tickets, this year’s edition of the Olympic Games will mark the first time in history when the continent will be represented by three men’s teams. In a single round-robin qualifier from January 10 through 12 in Santiago, Chile, four teams will compete for the rare honour to accompany the two South American powerhouses to the Olympics.
Venezuela are, in fact, the only other team from the continent that have ever appeared at the Games. They did so in 2008 when they finished ninth in Beijing and will try to do it again in 2020 in Tokyo. None of their three opponents in Santiago – Colombia, Peru and hosts Chile – have ever qualified for the Olympics, so the fans may expect fierce battles at Arena Monticello. 
NORCECA qualification tournament
The North American qualifier is the last of the five to get underway, also as a single round-robin tournament with four teams from January 10 through 12. Vancouver, Canada will host the event with the iconic Pacific Coliseum as the arena of the matches.
Hosts Canada will aim to secure their fifth Olympic appearance. At Rio 2016, the Maple Leafs ranked fifth, while their best result came at Los Angeles 1984, when they finished fourth. Montreal 1976 bronze medallists Cuba, who are after their eighth trip to the Olympics and hoping to do better than the 11th place in the Rio 2016 final standings, are another serious contender for a spot at Tokyo 2020. Mexico, who shared that 11th position with Cuba at their second participation in the Games, and Puerto Rico, who are targeting their first appearance at the Olympics, are the other two squads in the line-up for the NORCECA vacancy.
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Dominicans win NORCECA Title in five thrilling sets to USA

Dominican Republic won NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship to United States in five thrilling sets 3-2 (25-19, 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 15-9) on Sunday night at Roberto Clemente Coliseum of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dominican Republic finishes the tournament with 4-1 record serving United States their only loss of the tournament 4-1; Dominicans have lost to the U.S. in the preliminary round. This is the fourth time Dominicans and the U.S. battle for the NORCECA title and the first time Dominicans come out on top winning their second gold medal in the history of the event.

Dominicans offense and defense over the net, as well as receiving skills were solid, from the beginning. Outside hitter Brayelin Martinez was unstoppable but the U.S. reaction did not come light, bouncing back 0-2 for the overtime on a formidable display of speed.  

Dominican Republic led 11-9 in blocks and allowed 19 points on errors against 29; the U.S. held a 69-58 advantage in kills and a 4-2 margin in aces.

Dominicans leading scorers were Brayelin Martinez with 20 points on 20 kills and 4 blocks, followed by Bethania De La Cruz with 19 points and Lisvel Eve added 11 points. Michelle Barsch-Hackley of USA scored a match-high of 26 points, Kelsey Robinson and Andrea Drews tallied 13 and 12 points accordingly.

Prisilla Rivera, captain of Dominican Republic: “It has been a rough year for us, many events, lots of work, lots of suffering and finishing this way is the icing on top, I am very proud of my team. We could have finished 3-0 but United States is one of the best teams in the world and wasn’t going to give up easily. Our best skill was team effort; we had a moment of distraction when they started to pressure with serves”.

Marcos Kwiek, Head Coach of Dominican Republic: “Today we faced an elite team, it wasn’t easy. We lack money, we lack structure, among other things, but we have big hearts. My players battled a lot and it was a spectacular way to close the year; they worked a lot, it was a difficult year and we are happy that none of the players were injured, it’s a blessing”.

Karch Kiraly, Head Coach of United States: “Well played match from Dominican Republic, congratulations to them”.

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Cuba finishes pool-round defeating Costa Rica

Cuba defeated Costa Rica 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-16) to finish pool A in third place and moving into quarterfinals at the NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Cuba with 1-2 record moved into quarterfinals to face the loser between United States and Dominican Republic; Costa Rica (0-3) will play position matches.

The top three ranked will play the NORCECA final four Olympic qualifier to be held in January; except USA that has a ticket to Tokyo 2020, Dominican Republic already qualified to the final four and Cuba who isn’t taking part of the Olympic cycle.

Cuba overpowered Costa Rica 40-27 in kills; they also dominated 10-3 in blocks and 9-4 in aces. Cuba allowed 14 points on errors against 16.

Cuba’s outside hitter Claudia Tarin scored a match-high of 13 points on 11 kills, one block and one ace, accompanied by middle blocker Melanies Arcia who topped with 4 blocks of her 11 points. Outside hitters Tamara Espinoza and Maria Sofia Arroyo led Costa Rica with 10 and 9 points all on kills.

Claudia Tarin, top scorer of Cuba: “The team executed well, because of our two losses we needed to win this one to advance to quarterfinals. Today we were more motivated and we stabilized our serves which we had difficulties in our previous matches. We will give our best for what’s left of the tournament”.

Tamara Espinoza, top scorer of Costa Rica: “Today we didn’t fail that much in serves, but we had difficulties scoring; our defense could have been better. Obviously we need to improve and learn because this isn’t our category. This is an excellent opportunity to learn; it motivates us to be more dominant in Central America if we learn to control all the elements of the game”.

Tomás Fernández Arteaga, Head Coach of Cuba: “We got the win, but we still can’t read the blocking, our defense is not well positioned because the block can’t execute. It’s hard for us to get back the ball, everything the opponent throws in the back row falls. Today our U20 team finished the match, everyone had a chance to play and tomorrow I will do the same regardless who we face; we have to prepare for the final crossover that might be against Mexico”.

José Miguel Briceño, Head Coach of Costa Rica: “My players are looser, you can see their improvement from the first match to this one, they are more comfortable and you can see a group. Cuba dominated us with serves in the second set, we weren’t able to solve despite our reception was perfect on occasions, we couldn’t respond to Cuba’s tall blocks”.

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Cuba is golden at the Men’s NORCECA Championship

Cuba won the gold-medal match 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 25-20) at the 2019 Men’s NORCECA Continental Championship at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada.

Cuba led in attack points (46-34), and dominated from the service line (10-5), but the U.S. held its own in blocking with 11 points compared with Cuba’s seven.

Cuba’s was a team effort with Osniel Mergarejo and Miguel Angel Lopez leading scoring with 15 each, followed by Robertlandy Simon (including four aces) with 14 and Marlon Yant with 12.

TJ Defalco and Kyle Ensing had 12 points apiece for the United States.

Cuba had already locked up a spot in the NORCECA Olympic Qualifier next January as the winner of the recent Champions Cup, held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The U.S. is already qualified for the 2020 Olympics as winner of its pool in the FIVB Qualification Tournament last month.

Cuba, head coach, Yosvany Muñoz Perez: “I’m very happy.  We came here to fight for first place, and that happened. We had very strong serves, the reception was very, very good and our attacking was a good performance.

Our players now will play professionally all over the world and we’ll get back together in December to prepare for the Olympic Qualification tournament. “

USA, head coach, John Hawks: “They served really well, as we expected, and I think offensively they were just a little sharper than they were the other night (when USA won in the pool match).  We didn’t pass as well as we did, we lost the serve/pass game….  Our guys are trying to prove ourselves to our senior teams, to be on the roster….

Leaving here with the silver medal is great, but we want gold.  We’re proud of the effort, but in the end we just weren’t sharp enough, so credit to Cuba, they played great.”

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Canada falters against a determined Cuban team

Canada started strong, but lost momentum after the first set to fall to Cuba 1-3 (25-17, 22-25, 22-25,19-25) in the first semifinal of the Men’s 2019 NORCECA Continental Championship today in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  

Canada led in blocking (12-10), but Cuba led in service points (9-7) and attacks (50-43).

Miguel Lopez let all scorers with 21 points for the winning team. He was followed by teammates Marlon Yant (15) and Osniel Mergarejo (13).

For Canada, Stephen Maar contributed 17 points. Nick Hoag and Sharone Vernon-Evans had 11 apiece.

Cuba will face the winner of USA vs Mexico in the gold medal match on Saturday. Canada will face the loser in the bronze game.

Cuba head coach Yosvany Muñoz Perez:

“I am happy because of this victory. Our team had a very high level performance today, especially in our serving, we had very strong service today. Congratulations to Canada, they are a good team.  Now we want to see who wins between Mexico and the USA and then we will study the video.  We want to be prepared for tomorrow.”


#13 Cuban middle blocker, Robertlandy Simon:

“When we win, we are happy. We are here and trying to win, but the most important thing is to get to the Olympics.  January is what will really count.

Today, our service was very good, and they had some difficulty with reception. We played well after the first set.”

Canada’s head coach Glenn Hoag:

“We played a great first set, in all aspects, especially in our serving. In the second set, we completely lost momentum because we committed too many service errors early in the second set, and Cuba started playing better. … We haven’t played Cuba in a long time, so it was good to see what they can do.  We have to be ready for January. …It’s just a question of working on a few things, especially our serving flaws versus our block defense, and I think we will be ready. But for now, we will worry about tomorrow.”

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Cuba gets second victory at NORCECA Championship

Cuba defeated Dominican Republic 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-15) and is now 2-0 at the 2019 Men’s NORCECA Continental Championship at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada.

Osniel Lazaro Melgarejo was again Cuba’s top scorer at 17 points, including four aces.

Dominican captain Henry Omar Tapia also had 17 points, but for the losing side.

Cuba is aiming for first place in its pool to avoid quarterfinals and advance directly to the semifinals on Friday.

Cuba has already locked up a spot in the NORCECA Olympic Qualifier next January, but still has the goal to win this tournament.

Cuba head coach Yosvany Muñoz Perez: “Today I am very happy. The team played better than yesterday (vs Guatemala). At the beginning of the game we started off a bit cold, but after that we increased our performance. We are ready for the United States. We will prepare and discuss our plan to be ready for the match.”

Dominican Republic, head coach, Jose Alexander Gutierrez: “It was a difficult match for us because Cuba’s level is higher than us. But it is okay, much better than yesterday. For us it’s very good to improve after each game. This tournament is very complicated and is not easy. There are different levels here, USA, Canada and Cuba are much higher in skill and experience than Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala.”

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