DeFalco, Sander spearhead U.S. in semifinal sweep to reach NORCECA gold medal match

Photo courtesy of NORCECA and the FIVB

Outside attackers TJ DeFalco and Brenden Sander left no doubt that the United States would be playing for a gold medal at the NORCECA Continental Championship.

The former BYU and Long Beach State All-Americans had a combined 25 kills as the United States swept Mexico 25-18, 25-16, 25-23 in the tournament semifinals on Friday in Winnipeg, Canada.

Both DeFalco and Sander were the only two U.S. players to finish with double-digit kills. Sander led all players with 13 kills, while DeFalco contributed 12 kills against Mexico.

DeFalco also had a match-high three aces as the United States compiled seven aces — six more aces than Mexico.

The United States now has a combined 34 aces through four tournament matches. In addition, the team has yet to lose a set entering the gold-medal match against Cuba on Saturday.

Ruiz De La Cruz Gonzalo in the semifinal loss led Mexico with 12 kills and was the only Mexican player to have double-digit kills.

Mexico will play the host nation Canada in the bronze-medal match on Saturday. Despite winning the Group A championship, Canada suffered a four-game loss to Cuba in its semifinal match on Friday.

The gold-medal match will be the second meeting between the United States and Cuba in a span of four days. The United State swept Cuba on Wednesday to win the Group B championship and earn a bye to the semifinals.