Captain Rolando Cepeda Abreu was one of the team's leading players in the tie-break against Japan
Osaka, Japan, June 18, 2016 - Cuba continues its winning streak against Japan, defeating the World League pool B2 hosting team 3-2 (27-25, 21-25, 16-25, 30-28, 15-11). Osmany Uriarte was one of the Cuba's heroes, scoring 24 points for his team.
On the other side of the net captain Kunihiro Shimizu came in the first set to lead his team alongside Yuta Yoneyama with 19 points each. Cuba remains unbeaten, winning its 13th match at the World League against Japan, with today's tie break being the first ever. Japanese seem to struggle against Cuba outside the competition as well, winning only four out of their 30 previous encounters, with the last victory going back to World Cup 1995.
Powerful serving put Japan 8-5 ahead in the opening set of the match against Cuba, but the hosting team struggled to keep the lead throughout the set. Cuba came close to 13-12 with Japan stretching the gap until another TTO. A couple of uncofrced errors of Cuba allowed Japan to maintain the gap to 20-15, but the team struggled with closing the set, as strong hits of Albo and Uriarte with the block of the latter helped the team to tie 24-24. It was Uriartie again who served an ace closing the set for Cuba 27-25.
Kunihiro Shimizu, who was subbed in during the first set, remained on court and got his team, as well as the local crowd, fired up when he let Japan take an early lead at first TTO 8-7. Unimpressed by that, Melgarejo and Albo scored in attack, while Calvo brought another point with an ace for 10-8 for Cuba. Both teams kept the score very tight, with Japan jumping slightly ahead by two at 18-16 and 20-18. An attack and an ace from Shimizu gives Japan 22-19 and the team maintained its lead, winning 25-21.
Shimizu and Yanagida kept the momentum, opening third set with a strong 8-2 lead at the second TTO. Jimenez was the brighest point of his team, bringing much needed emotion to his side with solid attacks as his teams claw back 13-7. Japan held strong with Shimizu scoring with cross court attack for second TTO 16-8. The eight-point advantage was too much for Cuba to handle and Japan smoothly edges the set, extending the gap to 25-16.
The fourth set didn't start well for Cuba, with Japan continuing their domination at 7-4. Cuba eventually fought back for 10-9, but Dekita helps Japan to run by three forcing Cuba to call a time out. The break didn't bring much help to Cuban side, as Japan maintained 15-9 and 17-12 lead. A breakthrough came when Cuba chased the score to 17-16 and getting the tie at 19-19, when Abrahan blocks Shimizu. Japan runs away by three again and Shimizu is the guy who gave his team first match point at 24-22. A block on Dekita and an ace by Calvo gave Cuba a tie and a set point 25-24. Tough fight continued until Uriarte blocked Shimizu for 30-28, making it to the tie break.
Excited by the end of the previous set, Cuba with Cepeda on the lead, starts off with a 3-1 and 6-4 lead, but Shimizu ties at 6-6. Both captains took charge in the set with Cuba jumping ahead again at 8-6. Uriarte joins his leader, scoring for 11-8, while Cepeda was the man to give his team a match point at 14-11. Cuba didn't waste more time, scoring with an attack of Japan's block, to claim the fifth set 15-11.