Cuba Falls to Australia in Second World Championship Match

Olympic silver medalists Mariafe Artacho del Solar & Taliqua Clancy came up with two big runs of points late in both sets to overcome Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria in their second World Championship match today 21-16, 21-18.

Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria taking in the center court experience at the World Championships in Rome. Screen capture from

The Cubans looked every bit the equal of Australia throughout but in both sets, but both got away once Australia hit 16 points. In the first set, Clancy hit three aces in a row to turn a tight 16-14 score into a comfortable 19-14 advantage for Australia. In the second set, Cuba had the minibreak advantage with Australia serving 16-16 when Clancy went to town again. This time it was her presence at the net blocking that got two points followed by yet another crucial ace. That run ended with an insurmountable 19-16 lead.

Sticking with the tactics (a little too much)

Leila and Lidy showed the more creative and powerful attack of the two teams throughout, but Australia was so consistent in their side out game that Cuba were never able to build a significant lead. The Cubans targeted Taliqua with nearly every serve to mitigate the Australian blocker’s devastating second ball attack. These teams met in Tokyo and although I don’t have access to video of that match, I’m sure it was a lesson they learned in Olympic pool play last summer.

Both Lidianny and Leila have powerful serves that can keep anyone off balance, but once Taliqua settled into a comfortable passing rhythm and Atacho del Solar provided her flawless setting, Taliqua was very hard to stop. At the end of the match I wanted to see the Cubans test Mariafe a few times, but they stayed on Taliqua until the bitter end. Mariafe had very few chances to swing at the ball and actually took a couple of successful second ball swings of her own to break the monotony, including a kill for the win at match point.

So much power, so little luck

Echeverria and Martinez are forces on offense. Their attacks frequently flashed by Mariafe before she could react. We’re used to seeing the Australian defender use her quickness to get her hands on everything, but Cuba blasted past her again and again. They also unleashed some of the sharpest wrist away cut shots I’ve seen by a women’s team. They mixed up wide attacks at the pin with back sets to create a lot of room against one of the best defensive combinations in the world.

In the second set the teams exchanged side out after side out. Cuba finally appeared to gain the upper hand leading into the technical time out. They had scored on a nice Leila dig and transition kill, followed by a Lidy block. Serving with an 11-9 lead, Leila made another defensive play pushing the ball tight to the net. Lidy reacted quickly and attempted to send a pokey deep but it sailed just long. It looked like they were ready to go up 12-9 but instead the technical timeout came at 11-10.

Lidianny stretches to block a high line shot by Australia
Lidianny stretches to block a high line shot by Australia. Photo by Volleyball World.

After the technical timeout Clancy’s tough serve caused an overpass, but Lidy appeared ready to recover the point when she retreated from her blocking position very late and reached up to pass Clancy’s hard driven ball. Her overhand pass was called a lift, which it probably was, but it is also not whistled on a pulling blocker very often. That got Australia even at 11 – 11. Leila responded with another crushing cross court shot. After Taliqua sided out down the line, Lidy was called for a bad set that again looked very clean and suddenly Cuba were losing 13-12.

Cuba shook off those calls though and continued to pound the ball. Lidianny’s powerful ace down the middle gave them a glimpse of the lead at 16-15, but that number 16 caught up with them as the Aussies caught fire and put the match to rest.

Leila Martinez & Lidianny Echeverria’s World Championship Schedule
Date Stage Opponent Nationality Result
June 10th Pool H Terese Cannon & Sarah Sponcil USA Loss (16-21, 19-21)
June 12th Pool H Mariafe Artacho & Taliqua Clancy Australia Loss (16-21, 18-21)
June 13th Pool H Farida El Askalany & Doaa Elghobashy Egypt

Cuba is still very much alive in Rome

Cuba is 0-2, but unlike the other team we are following, Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing of Canada, they are highly favored to win their final match of Pool Play. They have to avoid any slip ups against Farida El Askalany Doaa Elghobashy of Egypt to stay alive in Rome. There has been a marked difference between Cuba’s losses in Pool H and Egypt’s, so they should be very confident. If they come up with a big enough win against Egypt, they can avoid the lucky losers round. Should they advance to the knockouts, they are on the brink of an upset and I expect to see them send some top seeds packing throughout the next week.

Leila lays out to dig in World Championship match against Australia.
Leila lays out to dig in World Championship match against Australia. Photo by Volleyball World.

What to watch in Men’s Pool B

Sam Schachter and Dan Dearing face Christiaan Varenhorst & Steven van de Velde in their pool play finale tomorrow. The Dutch team that were a late replacement for the missing Ghanaians are 2-0 and have already secured a place in the next round. They have beaten both Michal Bryl & Bartosz Losiak and Daniele Lupo & Alex Ranghieri, the two teams the Canadians have lost two.

There is still hope for Canada though as the tie breaker rules rely on total rally points not head to head results. So, a win for Schachter and Dearing will make them 1-2 and either Poland or Italy are sure to lose and drop to 1-2. So lets have a look at the current rally point situation.

Pool B Rally Points
Team Points For Points Agains Ratio
Christiaan Varenhorst & Steven van de Velde 96 87 1.1034
Daniele Lupo & Alex Ranghieri 109 104 1.0481
Michal Bryl & Bartosz Losiak 80 86 0.9302
Sam Schacter and Dan Dearing 94 102 0.9216

Keep in mind that it is possible to win a match, but lose the rally points battle. For example, a 21-19, 13-21, 15-13 win adds more points to the points against column than the points for. So, a Canadian win with that kind of unbalance result wouldn’t help them. That kind of score in the Italy /Poland match would also be problematic for Canada.

A Canada win coupled with an Italy victory would likely see the Canadians through to the next round and send one of this years best teams, Bryl & Losiak, out from pool play. A Canadian win and a very big win for Bryl & Losiak over Italy could also see the Canadians through. The first step is obviously that Canada has to pick up their first win in Rome, the bigger the better. There is hope for that because Schachter and Dearing scored a heavy win against Varenhorst & van de Velde earlier this year in Doha (17-21, 14-21). This is the group of death and Candada still has the ability to send a heavy weight out of the competition.