SAN DIEGO — The top-ranked United States men's volleyball team continued its mastery of third-ranked Cuba with an 11-15, 16-14, 15-10, 15-10 victory at San Diego State's Peterson Gym Saturday night.
A crowd of 3,000 watched as two of the biggest hitters in the world traded crushing kills throughout the match.
The Americans' Steve Timmons put on his usual emotional show with 34 kills, and Cuba's cool Ricardo Goicochea led all players with 38.
The victory gave the United States a sweep of a five-match series with Cuba. The Americans have now won 11 of 14 matches against Cuba since 1987, and all three losses have come in Cuba. The last American loss was 3-2 at the NORCECA Zone Championships in June 1987.
The United States played the gracious host, making just enough mental mistakes to give Cuba early momentum and the first game.
The American offense suffered breakdowns in the second game as well but gradually chipped away and rallied for the 16-14 victory.
Cuba led, 13-9, in the second game, but the Americans scored three consecutive points to pull within 13-12. Cuba then made it 14-12 on a kill by Goicochea.
The United States held off two game points and eventually tied the score at 14 on a hitting error by Goicochea. Timmons and Craig Buck blocked Goicochea as the Americans led, 15-14, and Timmons completed the rally with a solo block.
"I thought the second game was the key to the match," American Coach Marv Dunphy. "On our part, for the first game-and-a-half, it was not real well played. But then I think we played better, and they did too."
The United States jumped out to leads of 4-0 and 4-1 in games 3 and 4 but let Cuba back into the match each time.
With the score tied, 7-7, in the third game, the U.S. pulled away, outscoring Cuba 6-1 to take a 13-8 lead.
Again the Americans couldn't put Cuba away in the fourth game. Leading, 5-3, the U.S. committed two consecutive hitting errors and was called for a net violation to give Cuba a 6-5 lead.
Cuba led, 8-7, before the United States took the lead for good on a block by Buck and an error by Goicochea.
A block by Timmons gave the United States a 14-10 lead and the Americans completed the sweep when Cuba was called for reaching over the net.
"Playing in San Diego, sometimes we're not as aggressive as we are the rest of the year," Dunphy said. "We were just a little bit tentative.
"We have a tendency to outlast teams because we're more consistent."