SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Yassel Portuondo scored a team-high 17 points to lead four players in double figures as Cuba overcame a 2-1 deficit after three sets to defeat the U.S. men’s national Volleyball team, 3-2, in the Pan American Games semifinals on Wednesday.
Portuondo had 14 kills, two blocks and one ace in the 22-25, 25-19, 17-25, 25-23, 15-8 victory at the Pabellon de Voleibol at Olympic Park.
With the win, Cuba advances to the gold medal match on Friday against the winner of Wednesday night’s second semifinal between world No. 1 Brazil and Venezuela.
Brook Billings (Santa Barbara, Calif.) scored a match-high 20 points on 18 kills and two blocks for the United States, which will play in the bronze medal match against either Brazil or Venezuela on Friday.
“I think we have played an awful lot better (earlier in the tournament) than we played tonight, even in the games we won,” said Team USA head coach Doug Beal. “I thought the match just had an awful lot of mistakes on both sides.
“We’ve got some inexperienced players at some positions, and so there is going to be some inconsistencies,” he added. “I didn’t think we got into a really good rhythm, either offensively or defensively. Certainly Cuba is responsible for part of that because they hit some real good serves, and some of their hitters moved the ball around pretty well and gave us some problems.
“But I really thought most of (the problem) was on our side of the net. If we can do the things that we didn’t do tonight in our next match we’ll be much better off.”
Gabe Gardner had 12 points on nine kills, two blocks and one ace for Team USA, which saw its 10-match winning streak snapped to fall to 10-2 on the year.
After winning two of the first three sets, the United States started out slow in the fourth set and found itself trailing, 23-16. The Americans then went on a 7-1 run to get as close as 24-23 before Cuba finished off the set with a kill.
The Cubans then blazed to a quick 4-0 lead in the fifth and deciding set and was never seriously challenged the rest of the way as it rolled to a 15-8 victory for the match.
Tomas Aldazabal scored 15 points on 14 kills and one block for Cuba, which improved to 4-1 in the tournament. Reydel Corrales had 14 points and Ariel Gil added 12 for the Cubans, who won the gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg.