Two in the Bush

Oct. 17, 2009, 5:15 p.m. (ET)

Semifinal match vs. Puerto Rico

Match Score: 25-16, 25-23, 25-22

Starters: Setter: Kevin Hansen; Opposite: Evan Patak; Middles: Andy Hein and David Lee;  Left sides: Riley Salmon / Sean Rooney and Reid Priddy; Libero: Rich Lambourne.

Conditions: Match time: 8 p.m. Silky warm. Crowd 6000+ Boisterous but respectful and appreciative of good volleyball.

This will be a really short blog, since we are all pretty focused on the upcoming championship match against a physically imposing Cuban team featuring a 17-year-old phenom. He hasn’t been on earth long enough to be good as he is. They also feature a middle that I swear is the twin brother of former NBA star Shawn Kemp. Or it might BE Shawn Kemp after he defected to Cuba. 

Speaking of which, one of the Cuban young players – 20 years old – disappeared on Thursday. He told his teammates he was going up to his room to take a bath and hasn’t been seen since. The assumption is that he took off. He left all of his stuff in his room. The concern is that something worse happened; but history suggests he took his chance, bolted, and is defecting. There is much investigating going on right now considering the possibility something criminal occurred.

The word on the street, of course, is that he fled. Puerto Rico is an island, so he can’t really flag down a ride and get anywhere. He couldn’t really go to the airport, and say, “Hi, I would like a ticket to Seattle so I can further my training at Nevillizms.” A lengthy swim is out of the question. He didn’t wave down a boat. He doesn’t have any useful money since Cuban Pesos are not recognized beyond the Havana Mint.

So where does a 20-year-old, 6-10 guy go? No word if he worked his way to an embassy seeking asylum. It makes one wonder many things. What about his family at home? Does Head Coach Orlando Samuels a true gentleman in the sport and an old friend get hammered when he gets home because the lad left on his watch?

Do all the Cubans wonder why the others here are not lining up to defect TO Cuba? Why do all these guys have iPods, computers, cell phones glued to their ears, and wear clothes other than their practice stuff? Why is it only their team that has to be sequestered and not allowed to go out shopping or walking? Do they wonder what is inconsistent with the propaganda they are fed at home and what they see? It is sad because they are good guys.

However, we are preparing to whack them on the court tonight and take the gold. It will be a tough go, but this USA outfit is a special crew. The coaching staff is superb. It will be a battle where battles should be battled: On the court. It is the reason why we do this. If you are a competitor, these are situations in which you want to be. The Cubans haven’t lost a set yet. We have dropped one.

I will try and write a follow-up blog on Monday since we are leaving at 0430 tomorrow morning. I know this: I am honored and proud to be with this team. I have had this opportunity many times over the years. It is special every time and I never tire of it. Time to go…

More Later,