U.S. can’t close out Cuba, loses in U21 Pan Am Cup finals

Photo courtesy of the FIVB and NORCECA

Everything flipped and went against the United States in about a span of 90 minutes.

The United States went from a championship-point and on the verge of a sweep to watching its opponent receive the gold medal as Cuba rallied to win 21-25, 21-25, 30-28, 25-15, 15-11 in the NORCECA U21 Pan American Cup finals on Saturday.

The United States overcame two game-points to force a third-game overtime and took a 25-24 lead to move within one point of repeating as U21 Pan American Cup champions. However, Cuba fought off that match-point and then six plays later converted on its sixth game-point opportunity to jumpstart its comeback win.

The host-nation Cuba limited the United States to a negative attack percentage in the final two games and out-hit the defending gold medalists for the match .177 to .123.


BYU outside attacker Trent Moser in the loss had a team-high 18 kills. Ohio State outside attacker Kyle Teune also contributed 11 kills, while Stanford outside attacker Alex Rottman had nine kills.

Opposite Alejandro MIguel Gonzalez Rodriguez finished with a match-high 21 kills and was one of two Cuban players with double-digit kills. Outside attacker Bryan Camino Martinez had 15 kills on a .343 attack percentage against the United States.

Along with the offensive performance, Martinez led all players with five aces.

Cuba out-blocked the United States 17 to 16 highlighted with middle attacker Jakdiel Contreras Acosta having a match-high seven blocks.

Penn State middle attacker Owen Rose finished with a team-high four blocks. Moser and Rottman each had three blocks.

Penn State libero Ryan Merk also led the United States defensively with 21 digs. The 2023 Steve Shondell Award recipient as the NCAA’s top passer added a team-high 24 excellent service receptions.

Cuba was the only team to beat the United States at the U21 Pan American Cup. The United States suffered a five-game loss to Cuba during pool-play earlier in the week.