Cool Cubans in Control

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 9, 2016 - Cubans Nivaldo Diaz and Sergio Gonzalez validated their opening victory Sunday over a team from Beach Volleyball power Brazil by defeating 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour leaders Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins of Latvia here Tuesday in a Pool D men’s match at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Diaz and Gonzalez, who have played in only one FIVB World Tour event as compared to 46 for the Samoilovs/Smedins partnership, posted a 2-1 (23-21, 19-21, 15-9) win in 55 minutes over the Latvians to gain the sole leadership in Pool D with a 2-0 record.  Samoilovs and Smedins dropped into a tie for second in the group with Canadians Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk of Canada.

After splitting the first two sets, Diaz and Gonzalez were never seriously challenged by Samoilovs and Smedins in the third-and-deciding set as the Cubans increased their lead with every side switch starting at 3-2 followed by 7-3, 10-5 and 13-7 advantages before winning 15-9.

With Saxton and Schalk upsetting pool favorite Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg of Brazil earlier Tuesday 2-1 (17-21, 21-18, 16-14) in 58 minutes, the Cubans have clinched their spot in the opening elimination rounds starting Friday.  Diaz and Gonzalez play Saxton and Schalk in a final Pool D match Thursday while Evandro and Pedro must defeat the Latvians to have a chance to play on in the Olympics.  The Brazilians defeated Samoilovs and Smedins a month ago at the Gstaad Major in Switzerland.

If Diaz/Gonzalez tandem defeats the Canadians and the Pedro/Evandro partnership downs the Latvians, there would be a three-way tie for the second spot in Pool D.  If that is the case, then the points for and against for each team among the tying pairs would be calculated with the tandems with the highest two ratios advancing to the knock-out rounds.


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