PRESS RELEASE 05.01.2004


Puerto Rico's Soto stops Canada

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico, January 5, 2004 - A stunning 28-point haul from Hector Soto helped hosts Puerto Rico fight back from one set down to beat Canada 3-1 (23-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21) to even up their record after two days of action in the NORCECA Men's Olympic Qualifier in Caguas.

Soto, who had 35 points one day earlier against Mexico, was instrumental in the victory being Puerto Rico's main offensive weapon and thanks to contributions from Ossie Antonetti (15), Victor Rivera (11) and Ariel Rodriguez (10) Puerto Rico wrapped up their first win of the tournament in 112 minutes.

Canada could not counter the impressive offense of the host team after prevailing in the first set. After that, the Puerto Ricans imposed a consistent service game creating a lot of problems for Canada's attack.

Through the offense of middle blocker Steve Brinkman, Canada recovered in the fourth set but at 20-20, Puerto Rico kicked with three consecutive points courtesy of killings by Soto and Antonetti and a mistake by the North Americans.

Paul Duerden with 15 points and Brinkman with 12 were the best for the Canadians as the World Cup attendees recorded their second loss in as many outings.

"This is a moral victory for us because we felt obliged to win this one for our fans after the loss against Mexico," said Luis Ruiz, the Puerto Rican coach. "We created problems for their offense and attacked the corners avoiding their strong middle blockers."

"Puerto Rico played a great game and once again we failed in the important moments," said Stelio DeRocco, the Canadian coach. "We are in a must win situation now to make the next round."

Tuesday's action sees Cuba, who had a rest day on Monday, play USA while Canada take on Mexico.