Havana, Cuba, June 13, 2009 - Cuba beat Bulgaria 3-1 for the second straight night to complete an unexpected sweep in their opening series at the 2009 World League in Ciudad Deportiva Coliseum.
Bulgaria started strong going 4-1 thanks to its powerful block, but Cuba reacted quickly to overtake Bulgaria. The local squad was focused and full of confidence after Friday's victory. Great spikes and services increased Cuba's advantage, while Bulgaria tried to close the gap. After the second technical timeout the host squad went ahead for good and won the first set 25-19.
In the second set, Bulgaria was determined to tie the game and took an early lead. They improved their reception and also played intelligently. Inspired by stars Matey Kaziyski and Vladimir Nikolov, the European team kept a comfortable lead. Cuba fought hard, but it wasn't enough to prevent a 23-25 loss. A special moment for the Cuban supporters was when Michael Sanchez returned to the court after a serious injury that kept him away from volleyball for almost two years.
Sanchez came on for Rolando Cepeda, who was one of the key players in Cuba's opening victory.
The third set was level until the second half, when Cuba took the lead. After 16-15 at the second TTO, Cuba went ahead 22-18 thanks to some strong spikes, and Bulgarian mistakes. Cuba heaped on the pressure in the final points and claimed a 25-21 triumph with a spectacular ace from teenager Wilfredo Leon.
Cuba started the fourth set with the same spirit and overwhelmed their rivals with a stunning 8-3 start. The substitutions made by Bulgaria head coach Silvano Prandi didn't had little effect as Cuba kept playing at a high level. In a desperate effort to tie the game, Bulgaria made a lot of service errors. With the crowd whipped into a frenzy, Cuba closed out the match 25-20.
Cuba ended the opening series in a joyous mood, with newfound confidence they can qualify for the Final Round of the tournament.
Cuba: Leon, Leal, Camejo, Cepeda, Simon, Diaz y Alvarez (L).
Bulgaria: Tsvetanov, Zhekov, Kaziyski, Ivanov, Nikolov, Aleksiev and Salparov (L).