Stanford sophomore Jordan Ewert recorded 18 kills and Team USA downed Cuba, 25-17, 29-27, 19-25, 25-22, in the gold-medal game of the U21 NORCECA Men's Continental Championship on Sunday.
The victory clinches a spot at the world championships.
The hotly anticipated final at Centre Sportif de Gatineau swung on the second set. Team USA overcame a six-point deficit, 17-11, setting up a frantic finish where USA prevailed on the sixth set point after leading scorer Kyle Ensing put down a free ball. In the closeout set, tournament most valuable player and top setter Josh Tuaniga and USA played from ahead, preventing Cuba from getting closer than two points after the first technical timeout.
"This is super-awesome, being able to fight with this team, go through it all and see that each guy wants it just as much if not more," said Tuaniga, who crossed up Cuba with a no-look down ball to score the penultimate USA point. "Just to see the fire in our team. That's what makes all worth it. We've seen how much we love this game."
Ensing led the Americans with 20 points, including 15 kills from 25 attacks. Ewert was named one of the tournament's top spikers.
Team USA converted 55-of-106 attacks (51.9 per cent) while Cuba made good on 54-of-115 (47.0%). The Americans' reception seldom wavered, as Cuba was limited to three aces. .
"One of the things that we took pride in when we started training was we were not going to let anyone outwork us," USA coach Jay Hosack said. "That second game was the deciding factor. We talked about sending a message by sending a ball back in play does not matter if it's a free ball or a down ball just to say to them 'you got to do better than that.' After that they started making more errors. I could not be more proud of the way they played."