With 30 points, Martínez Carries Cuba to Win the U21 NORCECA Bronze Medal

With 30 points, Martínez Carries Cuba to Win the U21 NORCECA Bronze Medal
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17 June 2024
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Daniel Martínez scored 30 points in Cuba's 3-1 (13-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-22) victory over Puerto Rico in the bronze medal match of the Men’s U21  NORCECA Continental Championship in Nogales, Mexico.

This is the first bronze medal for Cuba in the history of the event. Cuba finished the competition with a record of 4 wins and 2 losses. Puerto Rico, in fourth place, ended with a 2-4 record.

The opposite hitter, Daniel Martínez, tallied his 30 points from 23 attacks, 4 blocks, and 3 aces. Martínez sealed Cuba's victory with a direct service ace. He was supported by outside hitter Kelly Oviedo, who scored 16 points.

Puerto Rico's captain and opposite hitter, Ramón Rosado, led his team with 18 points on 15 attacks and 3 blocks. Outside hitter Lorenzo Rivera scored 17 points on 16 attacks and one service ace. Middle blocker Yann Colon scored a match-high of 7 blocks.

Cuba outperformed in attacks 55-46, while Puerto Rico was superior in blocks with 13-9. Cuba had one more ace (6-5) but conceded more points from errors (21-18).

Puerto Rico built a solid wall with their blocking (7-0) in the first set, finishing with a commanding lead. However, Cuba rallied from a 5-point deficit (6-11) in the second set, thanks to Martínez's blocking and attacking, coupled with Oviedo's serving, to level the match. Cuba knocked off Puerto Rico's block to win the next two sets. Puerto Rico's setter had to withdraw in the fourth set after slipping during a defensive play.

Lian Sem Estrada, Head Coach of Cuba, said, “We lost the first set because the boys are still learning how to play at this level. They got overconfident after winning the first match against Puerto Rico 3-0. I had to remind them that we were here with a goal that hadn’t been achieved yet. Puerto Rico is a tough team that we respect. We had to work hard for the victory”.

Ronaldo Flaquet, Captain of Cuba, said,  “We were nervous at the beginning of the match since, for most of the team, it’s their first international competition. With the support of the crowd and a lot of motivation, we managed to pull through, showing great resilience”.

Gerardo De Jesús Sánchez, Head Coach of Puerto Rico, said, “Cuba stayed united during tough moments. At times, we did things that disrupted our organization. During a crucial moment in the third set, a red card shifted the game and put us under a lot of pressure; up to that point, the match was evenly balanced. We need to learn how to handle the tension to win these kinds of matches”.

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