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Puerto Rico first to qualify for Italy 2010

Puerto Ricans celebrate their ticket to the Final Round

Caguas, Puerto Rico, July 11, 2009 - Puerto Rico survived a dramatic five-setter against Mexico and became the first team to qualify for the 2010 FIVB Men's World Championship, joining defending champions Brazil and hosts Italy. The score was 25-13, 23-25, 25-18, 24-26, 15-8.

Hector Soto and Jose Rivera paced the Puerto Rican attack with 24 and 23 points respectively and Victor Rivera added 13.

Jose Martell topped Mexico with 18 points and Gustavo Meyer and Carlos Guerra added 16 and 15 points respectively.

"We accomplished the goal, we wanted to win no matter how," said Puerto Rican coach Carlos Cardona. "The whole night was complicated. Our serves failed and we didn't have the coordination in our settings. Obviously we feel happy because the objective of making it to Italy was reached."

"The goal was to make it to Italy and we did it," said Soto. "We played longer than expected today, as I think it should have been a three-set job."

Mexican coach Jorge Azair said: "We wanted this game badly but fell short in the tie-breaker. Now we need to keep working and try to make it in the next round."

As second-place finishers, Mexico will have another option of reaching the Italy round in a four-team playoff tournament from August 26-31 against the runner-ups of two other third-round NORCECA competitions plus the best third-place team of those events.

Earlier on Friday, Barbados scored a 25-21, 25-21, 25-20 win over U.S. Virgin Islands to finish in third place.

Shawn Simpson led Barbados with 16 points and Jelani Richards topped the losers with 11 tallies.

Soto was named Most Valuable Player and Best Scorer of the competition joining four other Puerto Ricans in the All-Star team.

Gregory Berrios earned the honors as Best Receiver and Libero, Enrique Escalante was the Best Server, Jose Rivera took the award as Best Attacker and Angel Perez was the Best Setter.

Mexicans Mario Becerra and Samuel Cordova were selected as Best Digger and Best Blocker, respectively.

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