The U.S. men’s volleyball team is on its way to its eighth consecutive Olympic Games appearance after sweeping Canada on Saturday in the NORCECA regional qualifying tournament at Long Beach State.
The scores were 28-26, 25-18, 25-20, leaving the U.S., the defending Olympic champion, with a 5-0 record in a tournament in which it lost just one set.
In the third-place game, Cuba rolled past Puerto Rico, 25-20, 25-21, 25-15. Only the winner of the NORCECA event is guaranteed a spot in London. But Cuba and Puerto Rico, by virtue of their high world rankings, are expected to be invited to one of three final qualifying tournaments in either Tokyo, Berlin or Rome next month.
Opposite Clay Stanley (Honolulu) led the U.S. with 15 points on 12 kills, one block and two aces. Dallas Soonias led Canada with 19 points, including 17 kills.
In the bronze medal match, Leon Wilfredo led Cuba with 13 points, and Yenry Bell chipped in 11. Puerto Rico’s Juan Figueroa notched a match-high 18 points and Ezequiel Cruz contributed 11 points.
While Puerto Rico held a 42-41 advantage in attack points, Cuba made up the difference with an 11-2 block advantage and 4-0 margin in aces. Cuba also took advantage of 19 Puerto Rico errors to its own 12 errors.
“It was a great match to end the competition,” Cuba captain Wilfredo Leon said. “We didn’t qualify, but at least we finished OK. Overall, we think we had a good tournament. It has served as a good experience for the next competition.”
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