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Cuba defeated by U.S. Womens National Volleyball Team
The U.S. Womens National Volleyball Team kept its hopes alive for a FIVB World Grand Prix Finals berth by defeating Cuba 18-25, 25-21, 25-23, 22-25, 15-13 in Pool I action of the tournament on Saturday at the Macau Forum in Macau, China.

The U.S., ranked seventh in the current FIVB world rankings, concludes the World Grand Prix preliminary round on Aug. 19 against Netherlands at 1 p.m. local time (Aug. 18 at 11 p.m. MT).

For Team USA, it was the second time defeating Cuba in the tournament as it also won 25-19, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22 on Aug. 10 in Russia. Cuba absorbed its fourth loss (4-4) of the tournament and it must get loads of help on Sunday to qualify for the Finals.

The U.S. improves to 5-3 in the World Grand Prix and is in sixth place in the standings. However, it needs a victory over Netherlands (5-3). Netherlands, which upset China today, is in a similar position in its chase for a berth in the Finals. The loser is likely the odd team out of the Finals. China, already holding a berth in the FIVB World Grand Prix Finals as host of the tournament in Ningbo, helps the U.S. cause by finishing in the top six in the 12-team preliminary field.

Poland (5-3) defeated Japan (4-4) in four sets at Osaka in a match of two teams entering the contest with 4-3 records. Brazil leads the World Grand Prix standings with a 7-0 record, while Italy and Russia are 6-2.

The top five teams in addition to Finals Round host China advance for the chance for the Grand Prix title in Ningbo, China. A round-robin format will declare the champion.

Cuba rallied from an early 6-3 deficit in the opening set to win 25-18. The Cubans scored six unanswered points in the period to take a 16-11 lead and made up for 12 errors in the set. Team USA led 6-3 early in the second set, then used a 6-2 run to establish a 15-9 lead and held on for a 25-21 victory. The U.S. came back from a 12-9 deficit in the third set, then used a key 6-3 run late to take a 25-23 victory. The fourth set was a battle of momentum as Cuba gave up eight straight points to fall behind 15-10, but came back to tie the set at 19-all and went on to win 25-22. After 12 ties and three lead changes, the U.S. won the fifth set 15-13 after a 5-2 run pushed the Americans in front 14-12.

"It is a great match for the audience," U.S. Head Womens Volleyball Coach 'Jenny Lang Ping said. "Both teams played well. The game was very balanced. These are great chances for players to learn how to play in such tight situations, and for young players to get experience."

"I think it was a exciting match," Cuba Head Coach Antonio Perdomo Estrella said. "We had many mistakes especially in easy ball. We could not block them well. I have to congratulate the USA team."

Kim Glass (Lancaster, Pa.) led five Team USA players in double-figure scoring with 19 points via 15 kills (30 attempts), three aces and a block. She also was credited with 15 excellent service receptions on 31 attempts without an error. Tayyiba Haneef-Park (Laguna Hills, Calif.) chipped in 12 points including 10 kills and two blocks. Heather Bown (Yorba Linda, Calif.), despite not playing the opening set, contributed five blocks, four kills and two aces for 11 points. Danielle Scott-Arruda (Baton Rouge, La.) matched Bown with 11 points on eight kills and three blocks. Ogonna Nnamani (Normal, Ill.) turned in 10 points all on kills. Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.), a late set replacement in the last four periods, totaled two kills in key spots during the match. Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (Honolulu) put up one block and 42 assists for Team USA. Jennifer Joines (Milpitas, Calif.) tallied one kill in the first set. Courtney Thompson (Kent, Wash.) was given five assists in a late set situational replacement. Nicole Davis (Stockton, Calif.) tallied a team-high four digs to go with 15 excellent service receptions on 27 attempts.

The U.S. benefited from38 Cuba errors during the match, although 27 of the miscues came in the opening three sets. Also, 17 of the errors were on Cubas serve. Consequently, Cuba stayed in the match by holding a 61-50 advantage in kills in addition to a 17-12 margin in blocks. Team USA totaled five aces to Cubas four.

Lang Ping started Ah Mow-Santos at setter, Scott-Arruda and Joines at middle blocker, Glass and Nnamani at outside hitter, and Haneef-Park at opposite. Davis is the designated libero for the Group I portion of the World Grand Prix schedule. Candace Lee (Eugene, Ore.) was subbed into the match in all five sets. Bown started the second set in place of Joines. Thompson and Busse were subs late in the final four sets as situational replacements.

Cuba, which runs a 6-2 offense, had all six of its starters reach double-figure scoring. Cuba captain Yumillka Ruiz Luaces chalked up 16 points on 15 kills and a block. Nancy Carrillo de la Paz added 14 points including a team-high five blocks to go with nine kills. Yanelis Santos Allegne chipped in five blocks, five kills and three aces in a balanced 13-point performance. Rosir Calderon Diaz was credited with 12 kills and an ace for 13 points, while Zoila Barros Fernandez turned in six kills and four blocks for 10 points.

China hosts Netherlands later today in Group I action as both teams enter with 4-3 records. Russia (6-2) slipped past Kazakhstan (1-7) 25-14, 14-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-10 in Group G at Osaka, while Poland won its fifth straight match with a 25-20, 16-25, 25-23, 25-14 victory over Japan. Brazil swept Group H host Chinese Taipei. Italy defeated Dominican Republic 25-21, 25-19, 23-25, 25-16 earlier in Pool H. Both matches in Chinese Taipei were delayed two hours due to a typhoon.

The U.S. jumped to a 4-2 lead in the opening stages of the first set, thanks to three Cuba errors. Team USA extended its advantage to 6-3 on Cubas fifth error of the set, but Cuba came back with four unanswered points to take the lead at 7-6. The U.S. regained the lead at 11-10 after a Nnamani kill and Cubas seventh error of the set. Cuba answered with six straight points for a 16-11, five-point cushion. Cuba stretched its lead to six points at 20-14. Team USA trimmed the deficit to four at 20-16 after a Cuba error and Joines kill. Cuba returned its advantage to six points at 23-17 on consecutive points, then closed out the set on back-to-back points at 25-18.

Team USA assumed a 4-2 lead in the second set after Scott-Arruda turned in a kill followed by a Cuba error. Glass followed up Cubas 16 error of the match with a kill to push the U.S. margin to 6-3. Cuba tallied consecutive points to inch to within 6-5. The U.S. reached the technical timeout leading 8-5 after consecutive Cuba errors. Team USA upped its advantage to six points, 13-7, after back-to-back Cuba mistakes and two Bown blocks for a 4-0 run. Haneef-Park put down her first kill of the match followed by a Bown ace to extend the U.S. lead to seven points at 15-8. Cuba cut the deficit by two at 15-10 after securing back-to-back points, then moved to within two at 16-14 with four quick points after the second technical timeout. The U.S. stopped the run by collecting a point off a Cuba error and a Glass kill for an 18-14 lead. Scott-Arruda and Glass kills pushed the U.S. lead to five points at 20-15. Cuba moved to within three at 21-18, and within two at 22-20. The U.S. closed the set on a 3-1 run with blocks from Haneef-Park and Scott-Arruda, along with a Scott-Arruda kill ending the set at 25-20. Cuba committed 10 errors in the period, while Bown picked up four points including three blocks and an ace.

The teams traded the first 12 points and neither team led by more than one point until Cuba went up 9-7. Cuba increased its advantage to three points at 11-8. The U.S. closed to one, 12-11, after an Ah Mow-Santos block and Glass kill. Team USA tied the set at 13-all on a Cuba error and Nnamani kill, then went into the lead 14-13 on a third straight point. Cuba took the lead back at 17-16 on consecutive points out of the second technical timeout. Bown turned in a kill and ace to return Team USA into the lead at 18-17. Busse and Glass connected for consecutive kills to give the U.S. a two-point cushion at 21-19. Bown downed a kill and Haneef-Park gave the U.S. a set point at 24-21. Cuba saved two set points with back-to-back points, but Haneef-Park hammered the final point with a kill for a 25-23 victory.

Cuba netted the first two-point lead of the fourth set at 3-1, but Haneef-Park and Nnamani canned kills to tie the set at 4-all. Cuba responded quickly with three straight points of its own for a 7-4 advantage. Team USA moved to within one at 10-9 on consecutive Cuba errors, then tied the period at 10-all on a Haneef-Park kill. The U.S. scored its fourth and fifth unanswered points on a Bown block and Glass ace for a 12-10 advantage. The U.S. scored its eighth straight point on two more Glass aces and a Bown block for a 15-10 advantage. Team USAs advantage increased to six points at 17-11 after a Nnamani kill and Cuba error. Cuba scored seven of the next eight points to tie the set at 19-all. Cuba snatched the lead back at 21-20, then scored the final three points for a 25-22 victory.

The U.S. scored its first lead of the fifth set tiebreaker after a Scott-Arruda and Nnamani kills at 4-3. Cuba returned to the lead in the tiebreaker at 7-6. The U.S. tallied consecutive points on Cuba errors to take a 12-11 lead. Team USA gained two match points after Busse pounded a kill and the Americans picked up a point on a Cuba error at 14-12. Fittingly, the U.S. finished the match with a Cuba error at 15-13.

Source: USA Volleyball News.

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