Osaka, Japan, November 19, 2009 - NORCECA champions Cuba collected their first win of the FIVB Men’s World Grand Champions Cup by coming from behind to beat Poland 3-1 on Thursday. After losing the first set to the European champions 25-22, Cuba took the next three 25-18, 25-18, 25-22 to improve their win-loss record to 1-1 after the previous day’s defeat to Brazil. Poland dropped to 0-2.
It was all Poland in the first set as they got out of the blocks early. As Poland closed in on the first set, Joandry Leal kept Cuba in business with some crashing spikes from the left. Poland led 23-20 but called a TO on losing the next two points. When they returned, Fernando Hernandez served wide up the left to hand the Poles two set points, and on the first of those Marcin Mozdzonek reached over the net and patted the ball on to the Cuban court for 25-22. Jakub Jarosz led the Poles’ charge with eight points in the first set, with seven spikes and one block, well supported by Bartosz Kurek with four spikes. Captain Roberlandy Simon replied with four points for Cuba.
In the second set, Cuba called a TO on falling behind 4-0, before Michael Sanchez put them on the board with a soaring spike from the right across court. The gap had been reduced to two, 8-6, at the first TTO. Leal and Jarosz traded aces – one with brute force, the other through placement and a sharply-dipping technique – and 16-year-old Wilfredo Leon began to make his presence felt on spike, serve and block as Cuba led 16-14 at the second TTO. The Poles took two consecutive TOs when trailing 18-15 and 19-15, but there was no respite from the Cuban master blasters, who eventually began to wear down the Polish defence. A Leal serve dropped just inside the base line for 23-17, and Sanchez finished it 25-18 for 1-1.
When Leon blocked Jarosz early in the third set, Poland took a TO down 4-0. With some good blocking from Piotr Nowakowski on Camejo, the Poles pulled back to 4-4. The European champions were beginning to toil at the net though against the strong Cuban block and counter-attack, and the NORCECA champions rumbled on to 12-8, sending Poland into a TO. A Simon decoy leap was followed by a Leal smash to increase the pressure on the Polish block, before Michal Ruciak showed the Cubans that Poles can jump-serve, too, and sent an ace fizzing through the blue shirts. Setter Raydel Hierrezuelo blocked Zbigniew Bartman to underline the Cubans’ growing supremacy, and southpaw Hernandez came on again to serve an ace for 21-14. After Leal blocked Jarosz for 23-15, Cuba closed out the third set 25-18 for 2-1.
Cuba had to play catch-up in the fourth set as Kurek and Daniel Plinski hinted at a Polish comeback, and when setter Grzegorz Lomacz blocked Leal for 12-10, the Cubans called a TO. The power of Sanchez, carving through the Polish defence from the right, and the blocking of Hierrezuelo took Cuba into the second TTO with a two-point cushion, 16-14. The lead grew to five points to bring victory close for the world number seven, before Jarosz, with some stinging serves and follow-up attacks, interrupted the Cuban march. Cuba had two match points at 24-22, and won it on an attack error 25-22.