Culiacán, Mexico, 27 Sept. 2003 - Canada and the USA have walked away with the top spot in the two tables in the preliminary round of the Norceca Men's Volleyball
Canada defeated Cuba 3-2 in their final match while the USA scored a straight sets win over hosts Mexico in their final encounter.
Mexico will play Puerto Rico and Cuba meets Panama to define the other teams to contest the semifinals.
The two top teams win a place at the World Cup in Japan in November, which is the first direct Olympic qualifier.
Canada pulled off a surprise in a great five set thriller that saw them triumph over Cuba 3-2 (25-20, 23-25, 26-24, 16-25 and 15-7) - the only match so far that has gone to the tiebreaker. It assures the Canadians a place in the semis.
Canada won the opening set but Cuba responded in kind in the second. Then the Canada put on a dazzling display of services in the third set for which Cuba had no answers.
Although they made a comeback in the forth to force the tiebreaker, Cuba, a young and relatively inexperienced team were unable to sustain the pressure till the end and had to concede defeat.
"It was a very exiting match, as are all matches played against Cuba. In the end we just kept believing we could win," said Stelio Deroco, Canada's team head coach.
Eliseo Ramos, Cuba's team head coach said: "Canada played an excellent game which was greatly enjoyed by everyone. It had so many actions of high level."
Paul Duerden was top scorer with 20 points for Canada while young Yasser Portuondo of Cuba distinguished himself with 17 points.
In Pool B action, Mexico put up a good fight but still went down to the USA 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 29-27), however Mexico, as table second, still advances to the next round. Doug Beal, USA's head coach, admitted that Mexico keep them playing on their highest level and affirmed that it was the most difficult match since this championship began. He praised the performance of the Mexican players.
Marco Heredia, the Mexican team's head coach said he was happy with the way his team had played against what they knew was a superior competitor.
Mexico now has to defeat Puerto Rico to win a semifinal berth.
Meanwhile, Panama is assured on one victory at least as they defeated Guatemala 3-0 (25-18, 25-11 and 25-20) in the third and final day of the preliminary round.
Group Tables (tabulated as matches played, matches won, points, sets for, sets against)
Canada 2, 2, 0, 4, 6, 2
Cuba 2, 1 , 1 , 3 , 5 , 4
Puerto Rico 2 , 0 , 2, 2 , 1 , 6
USA: 3, 3, 0, 6, 9, 0
México: 3, 2, 1, 5 , 6, 3
Guatemala: 3 , 1, 2 , 4, 3 , 6
Panamá: 3, 0 , 3 , 3 , 0,