Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2007 — NORCECA vice champions Puerto Rico crushed Tunisia in straight sets at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo on Friday.
The Puerto Ricans, lead well by man of the match Hector Soto and Jose Rivera, won 25-17, 25-17, 25-23 to improve to 5-4, while Tunisia dropped to 1-8.
With two matches left to play, the Tunisians will be hoping for a victory against fellow strugglers Egypt while Puerto will be confident, on this form, of finishing with two more victories against Australia and Korea. They are aiming to finish as high as fourth place.
Puerto Rico went into the first technical timeout leading by three points, with Soto providing the highlight of the opening exchanges when he aced a beauty down the middle, leaving the Tunisian players flatfooted.
Tunisia called a timeout when they were trailing by four at 12-8, with Puerto Rico’s Victor Rivera working and spiking well down the left.
The Puerto Ricans were well in control going into the second TTO, however, and led 16-11. Tunisia were struggling to cope with the wing threats of Soto and Rivera and coach Antonio Giacobbe called another TO when his team were trailing 18-12.
Fernando Morales tipped over delicately to put Puerto Rico 20-14 ahead before Rivera scored with a soft ace that Khaled Belaid should have dealt with.
The set wasn’t going Tunisia’s way and despite a good spike from Bilel Ben Hassine it was soon a done deal, Soto’s swatted spike bouncing off the blockers and out.
Puerto Rico kept their momentum going into the second set and reached the first TTO leading by three after some solid spiking from Luis Rodriguez and Soto, although Belaid and Noureddine Hfaiedh were also hammering down some harsh efforts for Tunisia.
Puerto Rico made a run for it at this point and, with some mistakes Tunisia, wracked up a five-point lead at 13-8. Angel Perez vertically spiked to put the Puerto Ricans six ahead at the TTO and they were cruising to the second set climax.
A huge snapped spike from Hosni Karamosly pulled one back for Tunisia but this was matched by Rodriguez the other side of the net.
An excellent diagonal spike from Alexis Matias brought the score to 21-14, triggering a TO from Giacobbe, but it was too late to stop the inevitable.
Enrique Escalante tipped over for set point and this was wrapped up when Jose Rivera spiked in from the left.
Tunisia finally started clicking at the start of the third set, with the likes of Karamosly having more conviction with some heavy spikes, and they went into the first TTO leading.
Puerto Rico battled back and leveled at 11-11 when Soto’s spike was blocked out of bounds. Tunisia came back, though, and led by three at the second TTO after Ben Hassine’s spike in the middle pinballed around the Puerto Ricans’ court.
Puerto Rico were chasing now and Soto’s spike reduced the lead to two at 19-17, before Matias cut it to one with a slapped down spike.
Puerto Rico leveled at 20-20, with their tactic of giving the ball to Soto time and time again working well — again.
Things were tight, though, and the set looked as like it could still go either way.
But Puerto Rico got their noses in front at 23-22 through Jose Rivera, Soto pushed over a lucky shot for match point and Rodriguez smashed down for the winner.