DETROIT, USA (May 22, 2015) – The United States qualified for the FIVB World Cup on Friday with a 20-25, 25-17, 25-10, 25-14 win over Cuba at Joe Louis Arena.
The top two Champions Cup finishers qualify for the 2015 FIVB World Cup, which is the first qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Canada also qualified for the World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Mexico on Friday.
The U.S. (2-0) will play Canada (2-0) at 6 p.m. ET in Saturday’s finale of the round-robin tournament. Cuba (0-2) will face Mexico (0-2).
“Obviously we are very excited to qualify for the World Cup,” U.S. Coach John Speraw said. “It is a little stressful to have a tournament as important so early in the season. You can see some of the reasons why we are stressed. It is not very sharp yet. The connection between the setters and hitters isn’t there yet.”
For a second straight night, serving was key for the U.S., who led in aces, 9-3. Middle blocker Max Holt and setter Micah Christenson led the charge with three aces each.
The U.S. Men also led in blocks (11-5) and kills (47-36).
After winning a strong first set, Cuba trailed 16-11 in the second, but it closed the gap with a four-point surge on a kill from Inovel Romero, two U.S. errors and a Rolando Cepeda strike. The U.S. responded with a back-row tip from Matt Anderson. That gave David Lee the serve and he ran the table as the U.S. scored the final seven points of the match. The run gave the momentum back to the U.S. and it never looked back.
“(In the first set) they got a couple good serves on us that were a little funky that we misread,” Anderson said. “Just a few plays at this level can lose you a set and ultimately a match. Ultimately, we played with good energy throughout and we were lucky that we came back and won.”
Anderson, at outside hitter, led all scorers with 17 points on 15 kills, one block and one ace. Outside hitter Taylor Sander added 15 points on 10 kills, three blocks and two aces. Opposite Murphy Troy totaled 14 points on 13 kills and one ace. Christenson led the U.S. in blocks with four.
Osmany Uriarte led Cuba with 16 points on 15 kills and one block. Cepeda added 12 points on 10 kills, one block and one ace.
The teams kept the score close in the first set and were tied 18-18 when the U.S. committed two straight errors to put Cuba up 20-18. After a kill from Troy, Cuba came back with a kill and two blocks to lead 23-19. A block from Sander made it 23-20, but Cuba got a kill from Chapman and ace from Romero to get the win.
The second set was tied 4-4 when the U.S. scored on two Anderson kills and a Cuba error to lead 7-4. The Americans increased the lead to six at the second TTO, 16-10. Cuba did not give up and pulled to within one point at 18-17 using a four-point surge on a kill from Romero, two U.S. errors and a Cepeda strike. The U.S. responded with a back-row tip from Anderson. That gave Lee the serve and he ran the table as the U.S. scored the final seven points of the match.
The U.S. took a 7-2 lead in the third set and increased it to nine at the second TTO, 16-7. With the U.S. leading 18-9, Cuba served into the net and Holt took the serve, connecting on an ace. He served for the next three points, including another ace, to give the U.S. the 23-9 lead. Cuba scored one more time before the United States took the victory.
The U.S. Men led 8-5 at the first TTO of the fourth set and 16-7 at the second. The U.S. reached match point at 24-11 on an ace from Micah Christenson. Cuba scored three more points before the U.S. won with an Anderson kill.
FRIDAY'S STARTING LINEUP
Outside hitter: Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) and Taylor Sander (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Middle blocker: Max Holt (Cincinnati) and David lEE (Alpine, Calif.)
Opposite: Murphy Troy (St. Louis)
Setter: Micah Christenson (Honolulu)
Libero: Erik Shoji (Honolulu)
Points: Anderson 17, Sander 15, Troy 14, Holt 10, Christenson 8, Lee 6
Kills: Anderson 15, Troy 13
Blocks: Christenson 4, Holt 3
Aces: Christenson 3, Holt 3
U.S. Roster for NORCECA Champions Cup
No. Name (Position, Height, Hometown, College)
1. Matt Anderson (OH/OPP, 6-9, West Seneca, N.Y., Penn State)
3. Taylor Sander (OH, 6-4, Huntington Beach, Calif., BYU)
4. David Lee (MB, 6-8, Alpine, Calif., Long Beach State)
6. Paul Lotman (OH, 6-7, Lakewood, Calif., Long Beach State)
7. Kawika Shoji (S, 6-3, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)
9. Murphy Troy (Opp, 6-8, St. Louis, Mo., Southern California)
10. Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6, Wheaton, Ill., Loyola)
11. Micah Christenson (S, 6-6, Honolulu, Southern California)
16. Jayson Jablonsky (OH, 6-5, Yorba Linda, Calif., UC Irvine)
17. Max Holt (MB, 6-9, Cincinnati, Ohio, Penn State)
20. David Smith (MB, 6-7, Saugus, Calif., UC Irvine)
21. Dustin Watten (L, 6-0, Long Beach, Calif., Long Beach State)
22. Erik Shoji (L, 6-0, Honolulu, Hawaii, Stanford)