A great start, lull in the middle and terrific finish helped upstart Mexico write the biggest upset Tuesday at the NORCECA Women’s Continental Volleyball Championship.
After winning the first two sets against Cuba before a crowd of 425 at Ralston Arena, Mexico stumbled in its next two sets and trailed 14-12 in the decisive fifth set before rallying to win the match 25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 18-16.
Mexico middle blocker Dulce Carranza said through an interpreter that she and her teammates relaxed a bit after sweeping through the first two sets with surprising ease.
“It was a hard-fought battle that had a lot of ups and downs,” Carranza said. “We got comfortable toward the middle and had to make some adjustments.”
A stronger, more concentrated effort on serves and improved blocking helped Mexico score six of the final eight points in the fifth set, when it would have taken just one at 14-12 for Cuba to set up an undefeated Pool B showdown at 8 p.m. Wednesday against Team USA.
Not only did the win even Mexico’s pool record at 1-1 after a three-set loss Monday to Team USA, it also provided a signature win for Mexico against one of the sport’s perennial powers.
“Cuba has been up there for many years,” Mexico coach Claudio Torres said. “Although they’re a newer team, our team is mostly new for us. Both teams showed they are top level tonight.”
Mexico and Cuba have the two youngest rosters in the tournament, in which nine countries from North America, Central America and the Caribbean are represented. The NORCECA winner will advance to the FIVB Grand Champions Cup in November.
Andrea Rangel led Mexico with 28 points — 27 kills and one service ace — and Lizbeth Sainz scored 20 with 15 kills, two blocks and three aces. Melissa Vargas led Cuba with 19 points.
In Tuesday’s first match, Trinidad & Tobago defeated Costa Rica 25-14, 22-25, 21-25, 27-15, 15-13. Trinidad & Tobago will face the Dominican Republic at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Pool A title match as Costa Rica fell to 0-2.
Canada won the only three-set match of the day, routing St. Lucia 25-14, 25-9, 25-14. Canada and Puerto Rico will play at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the Pool C championship.