U.S. Boys' Youth Team to Play Cuba in Final

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The U.S. Boys' Youth National Volleyball Team will have a rematch with Cuba on Sunday for the NORCECA Championship and a chance to compete at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

The U.S. Boys swept Mexico, 25-21, 25-20, 25-12, on Saturday in the semifinal of the 2010 NORCECA Boys' Youth (U-19) Continental Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico. Cuba swept Puerto Rico (25-21, 25-16, 25-12) in the other semifinal.

"It was a difficult and exciting match, as we had expected it to be," U.S. Boys' Youth Team Head Coach Gary Sato (Los Angeles, Calif.) said. "But the players adapted well to our plan and achieved our goal."

The winner of the NORCECA Championship will qualify for the Youth Olympics on Aug. 14-26 in Singapore. Both the United States and Cuba -- as the two finalists -- have now qualified for the 2011 FIVB Boys' Youth World Championship at a site and date still to be determined.

Cuba swept the United States in the final match of pool play on Thursday, 27-25, 25-23, 25-20. The two teams will play again for the championship at 3 p.m. PT on Sunday.

A crowd of approximately 2,000 attended Saturday's match between the United States and the hometown favorites.

"We really took advantage of the energy that the Mexican fans brought to the stadium," U.S. Team Captain Micah Christenson (Honolulu, Hawaii) said. "We borrowed from that excitement and energy and we won because our coaches prepared us very well."

Team USA's Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md.) led all scorers with a match-high 11 kills, a match-high five blocks and one ace. His hitting percentage was 0.65. Matt Tarantino (Van Nuys, Calif.) added 11 points on 10 kills and one block.

D.J. White (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) contributed nine points on nine kills with a kill percentage of 0.5.

The U.S. Boys' Youth Team converted 0.47 of its attack attempts while Mexico converted 0.26. Team USA was credited with 12 blocks while Mexico had none. Mexico also had no aces while the United States had two.

Mexico was also hurt by 26 team errors while the United States had 19.

Among other U.S. scorers, Owen McAndrews (Avon Lake, Ohio) scored six points on four kills and one ace.

Christenson added six points on two kills and four blocks. He was also credited with 21 excellent sets on 82 attempts.

John La Rusch (Long Beach, Calif.) had three points on two kills and one ace. Austin Kingi (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) scored two points on one kill and one block and Scott Rhein (Pleasant View, Tenn.) added two points on two kills.

Libero Andrew Sato (Calabasas, Calif.) was credited with five excellent digs on 16 attempts and had six excellent receptions on eight attempts. White was credited with 11 excellent receptions on 14 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. Kingi started the second and third sets at outside hitter. Nik Antonijevic (Buffalo Grove, Ill.), La Rusch, Christopher Orenic (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), and Matt West (Seattle, Wash.) all played as substitutes.

The U.S. Boys' Youth Team got off to a fast start and took an 8-3 lead into the first technical timeout (TTO). Team USA got balanced scoring off kills from Russell, Tarantino, Rhine and Christenson along with four Mexico attack errors. The United States eventually increased its lead to 14-7 when Mexico put together a three-point run on a kill and two U.S. errors. Sato called timeout and White came out of the break with his third kill of the set. The U.S. Boys' led 16-11 at the second TTO and it was 17-12 when Mexico used another three-point run, including two kills, to pull to within two points at 17-15. The two teams battled back and forth, and with the score 19-17, Team USA scored two straight points on kills by Russell and Tarantino. Mexico called timeout and came back to score two straight points. Team USA reached set point first at 24-21 on a kill by Russell. A Mexico attack error gave Team USA the set victory.

Mexico started out more relaxed in the second set and took a 7-5 lead on four kills and three U.S. attack errors. Team USA scored three straight points on two kills by Tarantino and one from White to lead 8-7 at the first TTO. Mexico tied it at 8-8 before the United States scored three more straight points on a Tarantino kill and a block and kill from Russell. The two teams continued to battle and Team USA held a 16-13 lead at the second TTO. A Tarantino kill after the break made it 17-13 and Mexico never threatened to get closer after that. Team USA reached set point at 24-18. Mexico scored twice on U.S. errors before a Russell quick attack gave Team USA the set victory.

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