Cuba conquer U.S. in tense volleyball semi-final

GUADALAJARA, (Reuters) – Cuba’s volleyball women beat  arch-rivals the United States 3-1 in a highly charged semi-final  at the Pan-American Games on Wednesday to keep their title  defence on track.
The holders will meet Olympic champions Brazil, whom they  upset in the previous final at the 2007 Rio de Janeiro Games and  who eased into Thursday’s final beating the Dominican Republic  3-0 in the second semi-final.   

The Americans had looked destined to go down quickly after  losing the opening two sets 25-17 and 25-16 but hit back to take  the third 27-25 before Cuba wrapped up the fourth 25-21.  
“I think we played a good game today and established a  difference from the beginning,” said Cuba captain Yusidey Silie,  whose team rocked their opponents with some fierce serving.  
The majority of the crowd that packed the arena were rooting  for the Cubans in a Mexican show of Latin solidarity, but U.S.  captain Cynthia Barboza shrugged off the partisan support.   

“I think the fans here are great, they bring a lot of  energy,” she said. “They haven’t really been cheering for us all  tournament,” she added with a laugh. “But we love playing here.”  
Volleyball clashes between the U.S. and Cuba now rival  baseball as an arena for the two nations’ intense rivalry.   

Cuba, coached by Juan Carlos Gala, blasted a number of aces  and their aggressive serving was a constant edge.   

“Cuba put a lot of pressure on us with their serves, a lot  of heat. I think in the third set we adjusted well,” U.S. coach  John Banachowski said.   
“I’m proud of the way our team fought today, especially in  the third and fourth sets … now we’re going to refocus and set  our sights on winning the bronze tomorrow,” added Barboza of the  playoff with the Dominican Republic.
Cuba will look to retain their title with a raw squad  including five 19-year-olds, among them the powerful Gyselle  Silva, one of several players on the team with a strong and  accurate spike.

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