United States ends pool-play suffering first loss at NORCECA Championship

Photo courtesy of the FIVB and NORCECA

Cuba ensured the United States will have to take the long path to win a gold medal at the NORCECA Continental Championship.

The United States in a de facto group title match failed to secure the automatic bid to the semifinals as it lost to Cuba 25-23, 25-23, 25-20 on Friday in Durango, Mexico.

Both Cuba and the United States entered their group-play finale undefeated. Despite the loss, the United States still has a chance at the gold medal having already secured the No. 2 seed from the group and a quarterfinals berth.


Long Beach State outside attacker Spencer Olivier led the United States with both nine kills on a .412 attack percentage and seven digs against Cuba.

Cuba ended the match with six more attack errors but out-hit the United States .269 to .219. Outside attacker Miguel Angel Lopez Castor in the victory had a match-high 10 kills and added the only ace of the match.

The United States rested the majority of starting pin-hitters from its first two group-play matches, including former Ohio State opposite Jake Hanes. Hanes had six aces and 21 kills in a four-game victory against the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

Cuba out-blocked the United States 10 to 6 — the first time this tournament the United States did not have more blocks than its opponent in a match. Former Penn State opposite Jalen Penrose and former UC Santa Barbara middle attacker Keenan Sanders each had a team-high two blocks for the United States.

The United States will play Canada in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. (CST) Saturday. Canada finished Group A in third place with a sweep against Trinidad and Tobago and losses to Puerto Rico and Mexico.