The U.S. Boys’ Youth National Team defeated Cuba, 25-23, 25-21, 25-20 on Saturday to win the NORCECA Boys’ Under-19 Continental Championship in front of a boisterous crowd at the Cox Business Center.
Team USA finished the tournament with a record of 4-0 and went 12-0 in sets. Cuba finished 4-1. Both teams were already qualified for the 2015 FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship.
U.S. outside hitter T.J. DeFalco was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The U.S. led in kills (53-31), aces (6-1) and digs (32-18). Cuba led in blocks (8-7).
“We did a good job of following the game plan that (assistant coaches) Kris Berzins and Brad Keller came up with,” U.S. Head Coach Ken Shibuya said. “Cuba is a good and powerful team. The kind of team we don’t get to experience in our country. We were excited to play them.”
A tight first set saw Cuba leading 23-22 when the United States called timeout. T.J. DeFalco came back with a kill to tie the score. DeFalco tipped the ball on the next play to take set point and Cuba called timeout. However a third straight DeFalco spike gave the U.S. the set victory.
The second set was tied 10-10 when Branden Oberender scored with a kill, then took the serve and the U.S. scored three more points on two blocks from Scott Stadick and a kill from Jordan Ewert. Cuba got close, but never took the lead again as the U.S. jumped to a 5-1 victory in the third set.
“Congratulations to the USA. They played amazing today,” Cuba Coach Roberto Garcia Garci said. “We didn’t win the tournament but we are still very happy because we qualified for Worlds. Congratulations to my team as well.”
DeFalco and Ewert each finished with 18 points for the United States. DeFalco had 16 kills and two blocks. Ewert had 16 kills, one block and one ace. Micah Ma’a added 10 points on five kills, two blocks and a match-high three aces.
Miguel Gutierrez paced Cuba with 17 points on 13 attacks and a match-high four blocks.
Cuba Captain Daikel Fernandez: “The experience was amazing. The tournament was really good. We got second place and we met our goal of qualifying for the World Championship. The crowd was really loud so there was a lot of pressure for us to play.”
Cuba Coach Roberto Garcia Garci: “Congratulations to the USA. They played amazing today. We were very happy with everything; with the organization of the tournament. Thanks to Tulsa. We didn’t win the tournament but we are still very happy because we qualified for Worlds. Congratulations to my team as well.”
U.S. Captain Dane Leclair: “It was a great atmosphere for the finals. We were really feeling it at the end of each set. All week we have been talking about grinding teams out. It really showed tonight. Cuba played a phenomenal match. But we just kept grinding and pulled away at the end, which is crucial in a game like this.”
U.S. Coach Ken Shibuya: “We did a good job of following the game plan that (assistant coaches) Kris Berzins and Brad Keller came up with. Cuba is a good and powerful and athletic team. The kind of team we don’t get to experience in our country. It was a lot of fun. We were excited to play them. They did what we expected them to do.”