August 14, 2003 - An inspirational haul of 21 points from Yudelkis Bautista led the Dominican Republic’s women's team to the gold medal match against Cuba on Saturday after defeating Brazil 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 23-25, 25-14, 15-13) before a packed house of more than 6,000 fans on Thursday. In the earlier semifinal, Cuba beat USA in straight sets (25-19, 25-19, 25-21).
The victory ensured the Dominican Republic would win their first ever medal in the Volleyball competition at the Pan American Games.
“I am very happy with my team securing the first medal ever, but to tell you the true I expected to win in three or four sets,” said Jorge Garbey, the Dominican coach. “We had some problems with our blocking and the Brazilians took advantage of that in the middle of the match.”
“Once we settled down in our blocking the team played much better,” he added. “Now we will play Cuba and we have to serve more accurately because they have a stronger attack than Brazil, and our serve will be a key.”
It was fitting that Bautista scored the last three points in the tie-breaker having led the Dominican Republic offensive all match. Annerys Vargas scored 19 points while Milagros Cabral registered 15.
For Brazil Fabiana Claudino led with 13 points and Katia Rodrigues and Fernanda Alvez had 12 apiece.
“I am very proud of my team and I have worked very hard to improve my game,” said Bautista. “I am very grateful to my teammates and setter Francia Jackson who trust me in the crucial moments of the matches.”
Having won seven consecutive Pan American Games titles starting in 1971 before losing to Brazil in the final four years ago in Winnipeg, Cuba are inline to recapture the gold medal after beating USA.
“It was a tougher match than the score shows,” said Luis Felipe Calderon, the Cuban coach. “Only in the latter stages of the sets, we took advantage of their mistakes.”
“I think they were good rivals and their libero (Sarah Drury) played a great match and showed a lot of desire,” he added.
Cuba’s captain Yumilka Ruiz said: “We went out to play hard no matter who the other team was. We don’t play against any particular team, we just try to beat the team on the other side of the net.”
In the opening match of the day, Venezuela captured fifth place with a 3-1 (17-25, 25-20, 25-21, 26-24) victory over Puerto Rico.