Mexico and Cuba complete the podium at the event in Poza Rica
Puerto Rico celebrated the first-ever NORCECA U17 Boys’ Continental Championship title on Sunday, after winning the inaugural edition of the event, held in Poza Rica from 7 to 12 November. Hosts Mexico claimed the silver medals, while Cuba earned the bronze. The three teams also booked their tickets to the 2024 FIVB Volleyball U17 Boys’ World Championship.
Puerto Rico went on a winning streak of five consecutive matches crowned by a 3-1 (25-23, 24-26, 25-16, 25-20) victory over Mexico in the final in front of 2,500 fans at the Gimnasio Municipal Miguel Hidalgo. Opposite Erick Vazquez (pictured in the main photo) scored a match high of 25 points, while middle blocker Fernando Castello contributed 15 points, including a match-high nine kill blocks. On the other side of the net, outside hitter Emi Diaz led Mexico with 21 points, including four aces.
“It’s really exciting to win in front of the fans, in a gym at its full capacity, and it’s an honour to win the tournament,” Puerto Rico’s captain Gustavo Alvarez said. “I really liked the tournament. I believe our serves and defence were very effective to take the win.”
To reach the final, the squad from the Caribbean defeated the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Cuba in Pool B and qualified for the semifinals, where they mastered a 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-19) sweep of their encounter with Pool A runners-up Costa Rica.
The home team also made it to the final showdown unbeaten. The Mexicans topped Pool A after straight-set victories over Suriname, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala, and achieved a hard-fought 3-1 (22-25, 28-26, 27-25, 25-20) win over Cuba in the semifinals. The Cubans bounced back with a 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 25-22) sweep of the third-place match against Costa Rica to snatch the bronze.
Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras and Suriname, in that order, lined up in the places from fifth to ninth in the final standings.
Puerto Rico’s outside hitter Maximiliano Aponte was honoured as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was also named on the Dream Team of the championship along with setter Yothuel Vergara (Cuba), opposite Erick Vazquez (Puerto Rico), outside Emi Diaz (Mexico), middle blockers Fernando Castello (Puerto Rico) and Raul Silva (Mexico), and libero Ignacio Cruz (Puerto Rico).
Emi Diaz was also the Best Scorer and the Best Server of the tournament. Ignacio Cruz was the Best Digger, while Puerto Rico’s Adrian Carrillo took the award for Best Receiver.