Team USA beats Canada, will meet Cuba for U21 men’s gold

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volleyball u19

U21 Champs: USA defeats Canada to advance to gold-medal match

 

GATINEAU, Quebec – The United States had a 15-point run in the opening set that set the tone for a straight-set 3-0 (25-9, 26-24, 25-21) semi-final win against Canada in the U21 NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship.

The win creates a Cuba-USA gold-medal game for a spot in the 2017 FIVB U21 world championship.

Outside hitter Dylan Missry was USA’s top shot with 11 points (11 kills from 24 attacks). Team USA also got 10 each from Kyle Ensing tallied 10 (eight kills, one block and one ace) from Jordan Ewert (including nine kills on 16 attacks). Canada received 11 points from Sharone Vernon-Evans (all kills, from 31 attacks) and 10 from Eric Loeppky (eight kills from 19 attacks and two blocks).

In the first, Jack Tuaniga, the left-handed setter, had his spinning salvos locked in while serving 14 consecutive points and keeping USA’s attack running crisply.

“I think that was the first time I have ever done that – that was crazy,” said Tuaniga, a NCAA second-team All-American setter at Long Beach State University. “I’ve done maybe 10, at most. Fourteen was a rough one.

“[After the first set] we just had to keep reminding ourselves that the team on the other side is a good team and keep working. We did good job of that. Canada gave us a really good fight, so kudos to them.”

Canada showed some pushback in the final two sets. In the second, they had serve with a 24-24 tie before USA claimed the next two points. The unexpected start did take a toll on the host team.

“Looking back at that score [25-9], it definitely put a hit on us as a team,” Canadian setter C.J. Gavlas said. “We tried to bounce back. We had a real good second set as a team and couldn’t put it away. It definitely did something to our psyche, but I don’t know if it should have.

“There’s some disappointment, maybe a bit of frustration,” Gavlas said. “We have to bounce back pretty quickly for tomorrow night’s [bronze-medal] game [against Guatemala].”

Neither Cuba nor USA has lost a set this week. The Americans, on a per-player basis, have a slight edge over Cuba in age (19.0 to Cuba’s 18.2) and taller (196 cm to 194). And, of course, only one team is assured a place at the worlds.

“I think Cuba is going to be a big, powerful team,” USA coach Jay Hosack said. “They’re not a finesse team, they just like to go up and bang away. They serve very well. We’re going to have to do a little better job of passing the ball if we want to have a chance. Those are the two things we’ll work on before [Sunday].”

Canada is a young team, with a 50/50 split of 1998-birth players fresh from high school and 19-year-old university student-athletes. Saturday’s result was their second 3-0 loss of the week against a top opponent. 

“I will say we are still in a learning process,” Canada’s head coach Gino Brousseau said. “That is what I told the guys: if they want to play at a higher level, they have to learn to deal with the pressure. We saw tonight a situation where the guys had trouble. The kids are very disappointed. The staff is disappointed. But they have to go through this situation.

“What I’m happy about is that we got beaten very badly in the first set and we came back strong,” Brousseau elaborated. “That means we have some character.”

The Canada-Guatemala bronze-medal game is scheduled for 6 p.m.Sunday, followed by the 8 p.m. Cuba-USA final.

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