Former BYU great sparks Puerto Rico upset of Cuba in NORCECA semifinals

Photo courtesy of the FIVB and NORCECA

Gabi Garcia Fernandez has once again lifted his team to a championship match.

The former BYU opposite had a team-high 15 kills while hitting .419 to help Puerto Rico upset undefeated Cuba 25-16, 19-25, 26-24, 31-29 in the NORCECA Continental Championship semifinals on Saturday in Durango, Mexico.

This was the third match at the international tournament that Fernandez had at least 15 kills. Fernandez leading Puerto Rico to the gold-medal match comes three months after the 2020 National Player of the Year guided BYU to the NCAA Tournament finals.

Fernandez also had a team-high two blocks and added an ace against Cuba.


Puerto Rico won the match despite being out .323 to .312. Along with Fernandez, former Purdue Fort Wayne outside attacker Pelerin Vargas and outside attacker Pedro Molina each contributed 10 kills.

Vargas defensively had a team-high 11 excellent service receptions and contributed 13 digs — one of two Puerto Rican players with double-digit digs. Former Penn State libero Dennis Del Valle finished with a team-high 19 dgs.

Cuba in the loss committed 25 service errors — 12 more errors than Puerto Rico.

Opposite Jesus Herrera led all players with 21 kills and was one of two Cuban players with double-digit kills.

Puerto Rico will advance to play Canada in the gold-medal match on Monday. Canada upset Mexico in its semifinal match on Sunday.

Both Canada and Puerto Rico as a result of their semifinal wins clinched berths to the 2022 FIVB World Championship.

The gold-medal match will be the second meeting of the tournament between the two teams. Vergas had a team-high three aces and eight kills as Puerto Rico swept Canada to open the tournament.