Brazil and Cuba qualified for the Men’s Under-21 Volleyball World Championship, after taking the gold and silver respectively, in the Junior Pan American Cup held May 16-21, in Canada.
The World Championship will take place in the Czech Republic from June 23 through July 2, and feature 16 teams, with Brazil and Cuba representing the regions of South; and North, Central America and the Caribbean, respectively. The United States also qualified for the latter category last year.
The most noteworthy element of Cuba’s performance in the continental competition was its effective offense, led by outside hitters Miguel López and Osniel Melgarejo, as well as opposite Miguel Gutiérrez, all of whom scored over 10 points in each one of the knock-out games and the semifinal, where the island’s team defeated Canada 3-1 (19-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-19).
The aforementioned positions are key to any team’s chances of securing victory, which is why positive results depend greatly on playing at an efficiency rate of over 50%. It is worth noting therefore that during the qualifying round, López performed at a rate of 68.89 % to become top attacker, while Gutiérrez was ranked third with 55.10 % and Melgarejo sixth at a rate of 52.63 %.
These figures were also reflected in the players’ positioning among the top scorers in the competition. Miguel Gutiérrez, with 45 points (27 attacks, 0 blocks, and 18 serves), ranked sixth out of 50 players, followed by Miguel López in seventh with 41 (31-1-9), and Osniel Melgarejo in 10th with 39 (30-2-7).
Meanwhile Cuba’s center Javier Concepción came in fourth among blockers, with libero Lionnis Salazar ranked number one defender, followed by Gutiérrez and Melgarejo taking sixth and seventh place respectively; and the team’s Capitan Adrián Goide, leading among passers.
Despite the squad’s most recent success, its excessive number of errors (80 mistakes in three games) continues to be a cause for concern. This situation must be rectified if they hope to secure a podium spot in the 2017 World Championships, where they will face tough rivals such as Russia, Italy, Argentina, the United States and Brazil.