Khabarovsk, Russia, July 4, 2009 - The Cubans showed they had what it takes to challenge one of the best teams in the world in away game even though they ended up losing their 2009 World League match against Olympic 2008 bronze medalist Russia in five sets - 2-3 on Saturday at the Platinum Arena in Khabarovsk.
Russia won 25-14, 24-26, 19-25, 25-23, 25-23 to improve their win-loss record to 5-2 and drop Cuba to the same mark. Cuba earned one point thanks to the five-set loss and kept the lead in Pool C two points ahead of Russia.
Russian Semen Poltavsky topped all the scorers with 24 points, 22 on kills. Roberlandy Simon led Cuba with 20 points.
A pair of excellent blocks and an ace from Sergey Tetyukhin gave Russia a 8-4 lead by the first technical time-out. Cuban head coach Orlando Samuels was soon forced to call his guys out as they began to make careless errors. It didn’t work. The Russians continued to put pressure on the opponent with not always strong but well-paced serving and were ahead 16-9 by the second TTO. The Cubans never came back in the opener and fell to 14-25.
The battle began in the second set with the teams fighting back and forth for a while. As soon as the Cubans managed to take a slight lead - 10-8 Russian head coach Daniele Bagnoli called a TO. He wasn’t satisfied with the work of the setter Sergey Grankin who was replaced by Oleg Samsonychev. Semen Poltavsky served an ace to level the score at 13. But the Cubans didn’t give up and went on to have three set points. They missed them all before winning a forth chance at 25-24.
In the third set the Cubans reached the second TTO ahead only by two at 16-14 but on the restart they made the decisive run. Osmani Camejo’s hard service enabled Cuba to gain four points in a row including a fizzing ace. The Central American team had only to keep up with their lead until the final 25-18.
The forth set was a close one as it stayed neck-and-neck till 23-23. At this point the nerves of Russian spikers proved to be stronger. Cuba captain Roberlandy Simon, under pressure, fired wide to hand the set to the Russians – 25-23.
In the tiebreak the Cubans took a comfortable cushion – 10-7 but then made a series of unforced errors helping the home team to bounce back. There were some thrilling rallies at the end of the game which made the packed hall enjoyed the volleyball. And finally 7100 fans could celebrate the victory of their team when Semen Poltavsky battered his way through the Cubans block and defence.