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29 June 2014
Bursa, Turkey, June 28, 2014- World No 7 Cuba opened the 2014 World League finals Group 3 on the right foot with a thrilling 3-2 (27-25, 22-25, 32-34, 25-22, 15-13) win over No 18 China in the first semifinal at Bursa Cengiz Gollu Volleyball Hall on Saturday. Now Cuba qualified to the final of the 4 nation tournament to play the final on Sunday against the winner the second semifinal between Hosts Turkey and Slovakia, while China plays losers for the third position.
This is the seventh victory for Cubans against the Asian side in 10 matches.
Despite committing plenty errors during the whole match, the superiority of Cuba in the areas of serve and quick attacking gave the victory to the Norceca side after 132 minutes.
Ernesto Jimenez paced the winners with 25 points, including one ace and two blocks, while team captain Rolando Cepeda and Santiago Uriarte contributed 24 and 21 respectively. China's opposite Yuan Zhi led the defeated side with 37 points making the best scoring performance in the World League so far.
Cuba started the match with a great concentration in blocking and spiking as they led 3-1 and 5-3 with their captain Rolando Cepeda doing good job in hitting from position 2 and Cubans continued leading till 8-6 at the first TTO. China came back aggressively with the efficient spikes from opposite attacker Yuan Zhi as they controlled the net action in their way to advance in the second TTO 16-14. China stayed ahead with the skillful cominations led by their setter Jiao Shuai who developed good passes aiding his team to continue leading till 22-20. Cuba came back on time at the end of the set to win the crucial points with the activity of Ernesto Jimenez in spiking from position to win 27-25.
The second set went point by point with the Chinese team depending on the quick attacks through the center Geng Xin with the maintained amazing performance of opposite Yuan Zhi. Cuba led narrowly 8-6 at the first TTO after emergence of their captain Cepeda before China again deployed their solid block to stop the Cuban attacks and succeeded to maintain the pressure on the Cuban team. The Chinese center Geng Xin was injured, but his colleagues were more insistent after he was replaced by Bian Hongmin who also performed well to conduct China to won the set 25-22 and draw 1-1.
The third set was again a big battle with China replacing the main setter Jiao Shuai by Li Runming who led the combinations using again the opposite Zhi, while the Cubans made substitutions to renew the blood of the attacks. Cuba was ahead 6-4 and 8-6 at the First TTO before China played their best and used the service as an important weapon to disturb the Cuban attacks as they succeeded to have the widest lead 21-17. Cuba made a great turn over as they scored 6 points against 2 for China to reach the set point 24-23. China saved the set point before they missed it two successive times. Both teams lost the set points consecutively before the Chinese opposite Zhi scored a backline spike as his team won the Marathon set 34-32 and lead 2-1.
Cuba regained their rhythm in the fourth set as they fought bravely in defence to lead 8-6 in the first TTO and narrowly 16-15 in the second TTO. Cuba advanced with a wide score 20-17 forcing the Chinese coach to call timeout. The captain Cepeda did a fantastic job to lead his team to win the set 25- and draw 2-2 extending the match to tiebreaker.
Cuba surprised China with a lot of razor sharp hits at the beginning of the tiebreak to advance 8-5 at the court turn before Zhi led the Chinese to narrow the score to 8-7. Again Cuba led 10-7 before china made another extra ordinary come back and draw 13-13 before Cuba scored two points to win the set 15-13 and the match 3-2.
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