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The three-time Olympic champion beat the Polish women 21-25, 25- 17, 25-20 and 25-17 in the preliminary match of pool A in front of 14,000 spectators at the Capital Gymnasium.

"We did not start very well in the first set, but fortunately we were able to make quick adjustments and played better in the next three sets," said Cuba head coach Antonio Perdomo.

"We had very good preparations for this game, especially on blocking against the tall Polish players," he added. "I am very happy it worked out for us."

Cuba finished with seven blocking points, just one shy of their much taller opponents.

"We thought it would be a very very difficult match for us," said Yumilka Ruiz, who had 12 smashes in 18 tries to contribute 12 points for Cuba. "The result gave us more confidence."

Ruiz was among five Cuban players in double scoring digits with Nancy Carrillo topping the list by notching 18 points on 17-for-20 spiking.

The Polish women, who clinched a Beijing berth by finishing first at the World Olympic qualification tournament in Tokyo in May, started strongly against the Athens Games bronze medallist, racing to an 8-4 lead in the opening set and improved to 16-12 at the second TTO. Cuba managed to pull within 22-20, but Poland claimed the first set by running off three of the last four points.

In the second set, Cuba fought back their trademark offense as Carrillo and Ruiz prevailed with great hitting efficiency. Jumping to an early 13-6 lead, the Cuban women cruised to the victory of the set at 25-17 before going on to seal the match in one hour and 28 minutes.

"Although we lost the match, I think it is important for us to play like we did today," said Poland head coach Marco Bonitta. "If we can keep playing like this, we can achieve something good in the match against Japan."

Poland will play Japan on Wednesday in its third group match which is considered a do-or-die for the Europeans.

Earlier on Saturday, world No.1 Brazil also collected its opening win by sweeping Algeria 25-11, 25-11 and 25-10 at the Capital Gymnasium.

"We had no great trouble taking the victory, but I think it is very important that we took the game very seriously," said Brazil head coach Jose Guimaraes. "Now we have to focus on our next game."     


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