US volleyball to play for Olympic spot

The US men’s volleyball team will play Canada on Saturday night for a spot in the London Olympics.

The United States, which won the gold medal at the Beijing Games, beat Cuba 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-16) in the semifinals Friday night at the NORCECA Olympic qualification tournament at the Walter Pyramid on the Cal State Long Beach campus.

Matt Anderson led the United States with 24 points, including four aces.

Canada beat Puerto Rico 3-2 (22-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-23,15-11) in the first semifinal. Frederic Winters had 19 points for the Canadians.

It is the first time that the United States has hosted the continental qualification tournament. Mexico, Trinadad & Tobago, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic also played in the event.

The Cubans, ranked fifth in the world, took the opening set with David Fiel’s block. But that energized the United States, who cruised through the next three sets before a crowd of some 3,000 fans.

Wilfredo Leon led Cuba with 15 points.

”I thought, as a team, we played a really good all-around match,” US captain Clay Stanley said.

The Canadians upset Cuba earlier in the tournament. Coach Glenn Hoag said afterward that making it to Saturday’s match is a significant step for his team, win or lose.

”This is a final for us, and it’s the first one in a long time,” Hoag said. ”So that’s a positive for us.”

The US men, ranked sixth, have gone to seven straight Olympics. They went undefeated in Beijing, upsetting top-ranked Brazil in the final match.

The team has earned trips to the last three Olympics via the NORCECA qualification tournament.

Several players from the US women’s national team, which has already secured a spot in London, cheered on their male counterparts and raised donations for Saturday’s EIF Revlon Run-Walk For Women in Los Angeles. The women’s team is participating in the annual event, which raises money to fight cancer.