A tournament-best performance from opposite Jaylen Jasper was not enough for the U.S. Boys’ Youth National Team to repeat as NORCECA champions.
Jasper had a team-high 15 kills as the United States lost to the host-nation Cuba 22-25, 25-21, 25-19, 23-25, 15-11 in the U19 NORCECA Continental Championship finals on Wednesday in Havana, Cuba.
The defending-champions United States entered the finals on a four-match winning streak to set up a gold-medal match between the only two teams at the international tournament. Despite the loss, the United States (4-1) for advancing to the finals had already clinched one of the two NORCECA berths to the 2017 FIVB World Championship.
Jasper was one of three U.S. players with more than five kills against Cuba (5-0). Outside attacker Joel Schneidmiller finished with 11 kills, while middle attacker Sam Lewis added eight kills.
This was the second consecutive match that both Jasper and Schneidmiller finished with double-digit kills.
Cuba in the victory out-hit the United States 39.37 percent to 37.01 percent, including having both its top two offensive players with more than a 40 percent offensive efficiency.
Opposite Jose Carlos Romero ended with match-high 24 kills — the most kills a player had against the United States throughout the tournament. Outside attacker Cristian Arsenio Rojas also had 17 kills and led all players with four aces.
Cuba defensively had a tournament-best 39 digs — 28 more digs than the United States. Rojas had a match-high 11 digs and libero Lazzaro Yudiel Arrechea provided 10 digs against the United States.
Libero Cole Paxson led the United States with eight digs. In addition, Lewis in the finals loss had a match-high six blocks.
This is the first time the United States lost at the bi-annual international tournament since 2012 when it lost to Cuba in the semifinals.