Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Aug 17, 2003 - In a giant-killer final for the gold medal match in women's Volleyball at the Pan Am Games, the Dominican Republic scored a huge victory against Cuba to claim their first-ever Volleyball medal from this prestigious international event.
Illustrating the meaning of such a victory to the Caribbean country, the start of the match, that finally fell their way 3-2 (25-16, 25-17, 14-25, 26-28, 15-13), the start of the match was delayed for about 30 minutes while police dispersed thousands of fans trying to cram into the already packed stadium.
In the final set, and with the score tied at 13-all, a soft touch by Dominican Republic's Milagros Cabral landed on the Cuban side for match point and then Cosiris Rodriguez blocked the attack of Martha Sanchez to seal the triumph and send the packed 7,000 seat capacity stadium into a frenzy of excitement and celebration.
Dominican Republic's Yudelkis Bautista was top scorer with 23 points and was also named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"I have been working so hard for many years and it is the first time I get
this type of recognition," said the tall player of 194 cms. She dedicated her award to her closest fans - her mother, sisters and her daughter.
"It was a great match worthy for an emotional final," said Jorge Garbey, the Cuban who coaches Dominican Republic. "There are no words to describe it, but I believe this is a game to be remembered for years and years to come."
Luis Felipe Calderon, the Cuban coach said: "It was a great game for
Dominican Republic and we played below par. But they have worked hard to obtain victories and titles and this is an example."
The Dominican Republic finished fourth in the previous Pan American
Games. They have come a long way since their 0-6 record in 1955.
Cuba, who lost to Brazil in the gold medal match in Winnipeg four years ago, has
7 gold medals in 1971-1995, a bronze in 1967 and now two silvers.
Earlier, USA won the bronze medal with a 3-1 victory over Brazil.
Elizabeth Bachman had 18 points for the winners and Nicole Branagh was right
behind with 17. Cynthia Barboza had 11 points.
"We are very proud of this bronze medal," said Bachman. "We came willing to play hard and get the victory for three reasons: One, we lost to them in the preliminary round, we lost to them playing for the bronze in the Olympics and the Brazilian men's team beat our boys for the bronze medal last night. So
there was plenty motivation."