Cardenas and Gutierrez drive Cuban comeback against Poland


Manama, Bahrain, July 24, 2019 – Julio Cesar Cardenas Morales and Jose Miguel Gutierrez Suarez banded together with Luis Vidal Allen Serrano to drive Cuba’s 3-1 (21-25, 26-24, 25-22, 33-31) comeback win against Poland to claim Pool H leadership in the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship.

Cardenas and Gutierrez combined for 46 points, mostly coming from attacks, giving the Cuban side a significant edge in the final stretch of the last three sets. Cardenas drilled 23 spikes and an ace, then Gutierrez had an all-around game with 18 spikes, three blocks and an ace, while Remigiusz Kapica helped Poland with 29 points.

The Cuban scoring duo got support from Allen on the side of defence as the middle blocker scored 10 of the team’s 17 blocks in the match.

Kapica had the hot hands in the opening set, firing spikes and aces to the Cuban defence. As the Cubans started off slowly in the match, the Europeans built enough lead to win the set at 25-21.

Kapica still commanded his team’s offence, while Cardenas and Gutierrez began to convert points on their attempts and match their rivals’ intensity on offence. With Cuba showing better execution of their defence, they were able to get through the second set with a two-point lead at 26-24.

Cuba carried their momentum into the third frame and led throughout the set. However, Kapica got his rhythm back and led his team cut down the lead of Cuba to within one, until a Polish block tied the game at 22-all. Cuba regained the lead from an attack and an ace, giving them set point, then a block sealed another win in their favour at 25-22.

The fourth set became a race to the end and the series of deadlocks continued as both sides refuse to budge from their positions. At 31-all, Cuba’s Manuel Thondike Mejias broke the deadlock with an ace, then a follow-up block in the next rally locked the match win for Cuba at 33-31.

Meanwhile, Tunisia finally recorded a win in the tournament at the expense of their continental rivals Morocco 3-2 (19-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 16-14) in the other Pool H match. Hamdi Ben Taleb went on a solid attack spree against the Tunisians as he scored 21 points that helped his team recover in the final two sets of the match.

The Czech Republic emerged on top of Pool G, following their 3-1 (25-13, 25-18, 20-25, 28-26) win over Puerto Rico. The Czechs, who lost in a tight five-set match against the Canadians on Tuesday, bounced back against the Puerto Ricans, with Marek Sotola leading the charge on offence with 21 points.

On the defence side, Josef Polak mounted a wall against the Puerto Rican attackers, scoring seven of the team’s 12 total blocks – also more than their rivals’ total output of five.

The Czech team gained three full points to take over the top spot in their group, while Canada and Egypt were tied in the number of victories and in set-ratio. However, Canada secured second place in Pool G with better points-ratio than Egypt.

The Czech Republic will play against Poland at 19:00 local time, while Cuba will face Canada at 14:30 in the classification matches for 9th-12th places.

In the classification matches for 13th-16th places, Egypt and Morocco will start the order of matches in Competition Hall B of the Isa Sports City at 11:30, followed by the encounter between Tunisia and Puerto Rico at 14:00.

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