Cuban players listen to the playing of their national anthem before the… (Joe Klamar / AFP/Getty Images )
Cuba’s men’s volleyball team had little trouble with Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday, needing less than an hour to roll to a straight-set victory and advance to a semifinal showdown with the unbeaten U.S. in the NORCECA Olympic qualifying tournament at Long Beach State.
Cuba -- which won, 25-18, 25-13, 25-16 -- will play the U.S. in Friday’s second semifinal at 8 p.m. Canada, which is also unbeaten, will meet Puerto Rico in the first semifinal at 6. Puerto Rico beat Mexico in its quarterfinal Thursday.
Cuba is ranked No. 5 in the world and No. 1 in NORCECA and the U.S. is the defending Olympic champion. But only one of them is sure to advance to London since the winner of Saturday’s final is the only team from the region guaranteed a spot in this summer’s Olympic Games.
Cuba’s Isbel Mesa tallied a team-high 10 points and captain Wilfredo Leon chipped in a team-high nine points, erasing some doubts after Cuba’s loss to Canada in the final match of group play on Wednesday. Trinidad and Tobago was paced by Marc Honore’s 11 points while captain Nolan Tash added 10 points.
Cuba controlled the net with a 9-2 block advantage, along with a 5-2 margin in service aces. Trinidad and Tobago committed 21 errors to Cuba’s 14. Cuba converted 40 of 62 attacks into points for 64.5%, including a perfect seven of seven from Mesa.
Puerto Rico, meanwhile, had a tough time with stubborn Mexico before emerging with a 25-21, 25-23, 20-25, 25-19 victory in the most competitive match of the tournament so far. The match took 1 hour 43 minutes to complete.
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