PRESS RELEASE 09.01.2004


Cuba to face USA in decider for Athens

CAGUAS, Puerto Rico, January 9, 2004 - Cuba advanced to the gold medal match and the chance of a place in Athens after defeating Puerto Rico 3-1 in the second semifinal at the NORCECA Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament before more than 4,000 fans.

The attack of Tomas Aldazabal and Osmay Juantorena was the key for the Cubans in the first set and second sets. The host Puerto Ricans were ahead 21-18 in the second, but the more experienced Cubans came back to erase the deficit and prevailed.

The Puerto Ricans came out strongly in the third with the consistent spikes of Victor Rivera and Rene Estevez, but the Cuban power emerged again in the fourth with the blocking of Pavel Pimenta and Yasser Portuondo and the defensive play of Odelvis Dominico and Javier Brito.

"It was a match with a lot of pressure and both teams gave their best," said Cuban coach Roberto Garcia. "I think our receivers were fundamental to our victory".

"I am very proud of my players because they did their best looking for the victory, but as I said before you can not give the Cubans any kind of break," said Luis Ruiz, the Puerto Rican coach. "Now we will try to repeat what happened on Monday against Canada for the bronze medal".

Portuondo and Aldazabal had 20 points apiece and Rivera scored 17 for Puerto Rico.