Caguas, Puerto Rico, January 4, 2004 - Cuba opened the NORCECA Men's Olympic Qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico with a powerful 3-1 defeat of Canada overcoming some strong resistance from the North Americans before running out winners 26-24, 25-22, 16-25, 30-28.
The potent attack of the islanders was devastating against a Canadian team with great blocking ability. Canada battled strongly but could not get the key points.
"Tonight Cuba was almost perfect and we could not deliver in the important moments," said Stelio DeRocco, the Canadian coach. "Now we have to concentrate on the match against Puerto Rico. The tournament is just beginning and losing the first game is not a sign of elimination, there is still everything to play for right up to the last day."
Cuba had Yenry Bell and veteran Tomas Aldazabal to thank for their superb performance after they collected 25 and 24 points respectively. Canada had four players in double figures with Terence Martin and Paul Duerden leading the way with 17 and 15.
The victory is the perfect tonic for Cuba ahead of their next match against USA on Tuesday with coach Roberto Garcia particularly pleased with his side's service and defensive game.
"We were very consistent in our service and that elevated our game," Garcia said. "We were also very stabile in our block and the defense on the floor. Now we have to keep working day by day in order to accomplish our ultimate goal of qualifying for Greece".