The dominant serving performance for Purdue Fort Wayne outside attacker Axel Gabriel Melendez Watts continues.
Watts had three aces late in the final game to help Puerto Rico overcome a deficit and finished with a match-high five aces as the team swept Nicaragua 25-19, 25-215, 25-21 at the NORCECA U21 Pan American Cup quarterfinals on Thursday in Cuba.
Puerto Rico trailed 20-18 in the third game before going on a 7-1 run to secure a spot in the semifinals. Watts opened the run with a kill and then delivered three aces on the next four plays to give Puerto Rico a lead it would not relinquish.
Watts entered the quarterfinals already leading the Pan Am Cup with a 0.73 aces per game average, including having four aces in Puerto Rico’s pool-play finale sweep against Haiti
Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals finished with a tournament-high 13 aces – one fewer aces than service errors and 10 more aces than Nicaragua.
Watts was one of six Puerto Rican players with an ace. Middle attacker Ramon Rosado contributed three aces, while NJIT outside attacker Antonio Feliciano had two aces.
Puerto Rico out-hit Nicaragua .242 to .062 and had a match-best .270 attack percentage in the final game.
Both North Greenville opposite Gregory Torres and Rosado had a match-high seven kills with Rosado hitting a team-best .429 attack percentage. Feliciano also added six kills against Nicaragua.
Outside attacker Denis Benjamin Espinoza Melendez in the loss had a team-high seven kills but was the Nicaraguan player with more than four kills.
Puerto Rico with this victory will advance to play Cuba in the semifinals on Friday. Cuba went undefeated in pool-play and won the Pool B title to earn a berth to the semifinals.