BEIJING — As Western Hemisphere neighbors separated by less than 100

miles of sea water, the United States and Cuba have created a pretty intense

women's volleyball rivalry.

Coming into Monday's match between the two favorites of their Beijing

Olympics preliminary pool, Cuba held an 87-48 overall record in international

matches against the U.S. since 1983 — but only 17-22 in the last 10 years.

Make that 17-23 for Cuba after Monday's three-set sweep of the Americans

at Beijing's Capital Gymnasium, where U.S. players and coaches were not so

much overwhelmed by the Cubans as much as they were underwhelmed by their

own effort in the 25-15, 26-24, 25-17 defeat.

"We expected a more competitive match from ourselves," said Danielle

Scott-Arruda. "What we can take away is to improve our serves and

minimize our errors. And more fight — we lacked fight."

Monday's victors didn't show the U.S. anything they haven't seen before.

"Cuba is always Cuba," said outside hitter Logan Tom, the former Utah

high school standout. "They're going to jump high, they're going to hit hard

and they're going to bomb."

In the latest FIVB world rankings, Cuba is ranked No. 3 and the United

States No. 4, but the Americans seemingly played a number of notches below

that, with head coach "Jenny" Lang Ping critical of her team's instability

and inconsistency.

Cuba romped to an easy 25-15 first-set win, but the U.S. rallied in the

second and seemed set to even the score at 1-1, serving for set point at

24-23. However, Cuba ripped of three straight points for the game and a 2-0

lead and then cruised in the third for the sweeping victory.