U.S. men to face Poland in World League final
By Angel Krasimirov
SOFIA (Reuters) - Olympic champions the United States and Poland will meet in the gold medal match in volleyball's World League after straight sets wins over Cuba and Bulgaria respectively in the Armeets Arena in Sofia on Saturday.
The tournament's finals were infused with an extra ingredient as five of the six competing teams put the finishing touches to their preparations for the London Olympics.
The U.S., who have won the premier annual men's volleyball tournament only once in 2008, overpowered Cuba 25-23 25-22 25-23 while Poland reached their maiden final after beating hosts Bulgaria 25-23 25-20 25-18.
Cuba, a team made up of home-based players, were worthy opponents but the U.S. broke them down thanks to effective performances by Clayton Stanley and Matthew Anderson.
The towering 2.05-metre captain Stanley scored 17 points, including four aces, and outside hitter Anderson added 13 points.
"When we play against Cuba, we always have close sets, so we expected it to be the same today," coach Alan Knipe told a news conference. "The good thing is we have a high hitting percentage and the players have done well in reception.
"The most important thing is that we used the ability to create opportunities in defense and turn them into points."
Impressive Poland, who won the bronze medal on home soil last year, cruised to a 3-0 victory over Bulgaria, in the other semi-final despite passionate support from their hosts' fans.
Poland overwhelmed their opponents, ranked ninth in the world, with a dazzling display of power and aggressive serving as a gulf in class between the two teams was visible in key moments.
"We're very excited, it's a historic moment for us and we just can't wait for the Sunday's final," Polish captain Marcin Mozdzonek said.
The U.S. and Poland will compete on Sunday for the gold with the winners also earning $1 million cash prize.
World champions Brazil, who have won the competition nine times, failed to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1998 after defeat in straight sets by Cuba on Wednesday and a 3-2 loss to Poland on the following day.
(Editing by Alison Wildey)
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