U.S. Boys' Youth Team Succumbs to Cuba

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-- The U.S. Boys' Youth National Volleyball Team fell to Cuba, 27-25, 25-23, 25-20, on Thursday at the 2010 NORCECA Boys' Youth (U-19) Continental Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico.

With the victory, Cuba wins Pool A with a 2-0 record. However, the other two pool winners -- Mexico and Puerto Rico -- also had records of 2-0. Cuba had the worst points ratio of the three, so it will play Guatemala in Friday's quarterfinals.

The U.S. Boys' Team finishes second at 1-1 and will play Dominican Republic at 5 p.m. PT in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinal winners will play the other two pool winners -- Mexico and Puerto Rico, in Saturday's semifinals.

The U.S. Boys' Team was led by Matt Tarantino (Van Nuys, Calif.) who had 12 points on 10 kills and two blocks. Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) added 10 points on eight kills, one block and one ace. D.J. White scored eight points on eight kills with a kill percentage of 0.5.

U.S. Boys' Youth Team Head Coach Gary Sato (Los Angeles, Calif.) was pleased with the effort of his team, which did not get to train together before the tournament.

"The boys have been fantastic with respect to the input and feedback regarding how we play USA Volleyball," Sato said. "The staff has been fantastic and our progress has been accelerated by the quality of athletes we have representing the USA."

Although the U.S. Boys' Team put up a good fight, especially at the end of each set, the match was dominated by Cuban Wilfredo Leon, 16. Leon rose to international volleyball prominence as a 15-year-old when he started for Cuba's Men's National Team at the 2009 FIVB World League and the 2009 NORCECA Continental Championship. He also helped Cuba's Men's Junior (U-21) Team to a second-place finish at the 2009 FIVB World Championship.

Now 16, Leon led all scorers on Thursday with 26 points on 22 kills and four blocks. Cuba out-blocked the United States 11-9 and had 46 kills as compared to Team USA's 37.

Among other U.S. scorers, Owen McAndrews (Avon Lake, Ohio) totaled six points on five kills and one block. Christopher Orenic (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) added four points on four kills. Nik Antonijevic had three points on two kills and one block. Micah Christenson (Honolulu, Hawaii) scored two points on two kills and Scott Rhein (Pleasant View, Tenn.) totaled two points on one kill and one block.

Christenson was credited with 21 excellent sets on 71 attempts while setting the team to a 0.44 kill percentage. Libero Andrew Sato (Calabasas, Calif.) was credited with 77 percent excellent receptions on 13 attempts. White was credited with 17 excellent receptions on 27 attempts. Rhein had 13 excellent receptions on 17 attempts.
Sato started White and Rhein at outside hitter, Russell and McAndrews at middle blocker, Tarantino at opposite and Christenson at setter and Sato at libero. Orenic substituted in the second set and started the third set for Rhein. Antonijevic and Austin Kingi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) also played as substitutes.

The two teams were well matched in the first set. Cuba held an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout (TTO), with the United States scoring on kills from White, Russell and Christenson along with Cuba errors. Cuba increased its lead to 9-6 and then 10-7 when Team USA scored two straight, including a Tarantino kill. Cuba made it 11-9, but the U.S. Boys' Team tied the score on kills from White and Tarantino. The two teams battled back and forth until the United States held a 14-13 advantage. But Cuba scored three straight points on two kills and a U.S. error to lead 16-14 at the second TTO.

Cuba had increased its lead to 17-14 when Team USA fought back with three straight points on Cuba's error plus a McAndrews block and Russell's ace. Cuba called timeout and cooled things off with a kill. After the two teams battled back and forth, Cuba reached set point first at 24-22. Sato called a timeout and Cuba responded by serving into the net. Sato called another timeout, and the United States came back to make it 24-24 on Rhein's block. A Leon kill put Cuba up 25-24, but a Cuban service error tied the score again. The set ended on a U.S. service error followed by a Cuban ace.

Cuba took an 8-5 lead at the first TTO of the second set as the United States scored on two kill from Russell, one each from Christenson and White and a block by Tarantino. It increased its lead to 9-5 after the TTO and continued to lead by four at the second TTO, 16-12. With Cuba seeming well on its way to victory with a 20-15 lead, a McAndrews kill and Tarantino block cut the lead to 20-17. Cuba called timeout, but Antonijevic's block made it 20-18. Cuba came back with two straight points to lead by four again, but two straight kills by Tarantino and Orenic cut the lead to two again. Cuba reached set point first at 24-22. A kill from White made it 24-23 and caused Cuba to call timeout. Leon then ended the set with a kill.

Team USA got off to a better start in the third set, leading 8-7 at the first TTO thanks to two kills each from Russell and Tarantino and one from McAndrews. The U.S. Boys' continued to hold a one-point lead at 14-13 when Cuba put together a kill and two blocks to lead at the second TTO, 16-14. It increased the lead to 17-14 before Tarantino cut it back to one with two straight kills. Cuba responded with a kill and later increased its lead to four at 22-18. Cuba reached match point first at 24-20 and another kill from Leon finished the match.

Live streaming of the matches is available at www.guadalajara2011.org.mx/esp/index.asp.

2010 U.S. Boys' Youth National Team
NORCECA Continental Championships
April 6-11 in Guadalajara, Mexico

No. Name (Position; Height; Hometown; Club; Region)
3 Nikola Antonijevic (MB; 6-8; Buffalo Grove, Ill.; Adversity; Great Lakes)
4 Micah Christenson (S; 6-5; Honolulu, Hawaii; Outrigger Canoe Club; Aloha)
7 Austin Kingi (OH; 6-4; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; SCVC; Southern California)
9 John La Rusch (OH; 6-6; Long Beach; Calif.; MB Surf; Southern California)
10 Owen McAndrews (MB; 6-4; Avon Lake, Ohio; Matchpoint; Ohio Valley)
12 Christopher Orenic (OH; 6-3; Manhattan Beach, Calif.; SCVC; Southern California)
13 Scott Rhein (OH; 6-5; Pleasant View, Tenn.; Impact; Southern)
14 Aaron Russell (MB; 6-7.5; Ellicott City, Md.; MVP; Chesapeake)
16 Andrew Sato (L; 5-9; Calabasas, Calif.; SMBC; Southern California)
17 Matt Tarantino (OPP; 6-8; Van Nuys, Calif.; SMBC; Southern California)
18 Matt West (S; 6-5.5; Seattle, Wash.; Space Needle Volleyball Foundation; Puget Sound)
19 D.J. White (OH; 6-5; Hermosa Beach, Calif.; MB Surf; Southern California)

Head Coach: Gary Sato (Los Angeles)
Team Leader: Tom Tait
Assistant Coach: Jeff Stork (Topanga, Calif.)
Trainer: Walt Ker (Valencia, Calif.)
Physician: Julie Chuan

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