COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 24, 2016) – U.S. Boys Youth National Team began its defense of the U19 NORCECA Boys U19 Continental Championship with a 25-23, 25-12, 25-23 victory against Nicaragua on Friday in Havana, Cuba.

“My boys were really timid whereas the Nicaraguans, while playing calm, did it well, more relaxed. It was a good opportunity to see them all playing and get them familiar with the court and the environment,” U.S. Head Coach Sam Shweisky said in a translated NORCECA press release.

Despite being mismatched to the Americans’ height, Nicaragua presented tough competition, forcing long rallies. Match statistics were not immediately available.

The top two finishers at the tournament, played in Havana, Cuba, qualify for the 2017 FIVB Boys U19 World Championship.

The U.S. next faces Costa Rica on Saturday, followed by Dominican Republic on Sunday. The tournament’s quarterfinals follow on Monday, with finals scheduled for Wednesday, June 29.

The Boys Youth National Team was selected following a series of national try outs in recent months. Twenty-four players were named to the Boys Youth National Training Team before 12 were selected to represent the U.S. in the NORCECA tournament.

Multiple athletes chose to represent the U.S. rather than play at the Boys Junior National Championships with their club teams, which begin Wednesday.