PRESS RELEASE 18.09.2003


NORCECA Women's Continental Championship - Cuba and USA qualify for the World Cup

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, September 18, 2003 - Cuba and USA used different paths but both qualified for the Women’s World Cup in Japan after both sides recorded semifinal victories on Thursday at the NORCECA Women's Continental Championship in the Dominican Republic. While Cuba had to battle through five tough sets against the Dominican Republic, the Americans blanked Canada to set up a Cuba-USA final on Friday.

The Cubans saw the hosts from the Dominican Republic fight back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the match before dominating the tie-breaker in their 25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 20-25, 15-11 victory while the Americans had no problems to defeat the young Canadians 25-16, 25-19, 25-16 .

“It was the kind of match we were expecting,” said Luis Felipe Calderon, the Cuban coach. “Both sides have a lot of talent and once again the Dominicans showed their improvement.”

“Now we have a big responsibility in the World Cup in November against the best teams,” he added. “We have the chance to qualify for the Olympics but we still have another chance in the Continental pre-Olympic qualifier to be staged here in Santo Domingo in December.”

Yumilka Ruiz led Cuba's offense with 22 points and Zoila Barros added 16. Annerys Vargas had 15, Cosiris Rodriguez 14 and Yudelkis Bautista 13 for the Dominicans.

Meanwhile, Logan Tom top scored for USA with 17 points against Canada, while Prikeba Phipps and Nancy Metcalf collected 14 and 13 respectively. Barb Bellini scored 10 for Canada.

“We still have a lot to improve,” said USA coach Toshi Yoshida. “Our team has been playing with up and downs and need to maintain a certain level of consistency. All the sets were pretty even until 15 and then somehow we found the rhythm and prevailed.”

Friday's final between the United States and Cuba is a rematch of the Pool B finale Tuesday night, won by the Americans, 3-2, and of the 2001 NORCECA championship, won by Team USA, 3-1.

The two teams are no strangers to NORCECA success: Since the first women's NORCECA Championship in 1969 (the tournament is held every other year in odd-numbered years), Cuba has won the tournament 12 out of 17 times. The United States has won three championships (1981, 1983 and 2001) and has finished second to Cuba nine times. Mexico won the first two NORCECA crowns in 1969 and 1971.

We played five sets against USA before losing in the preliminary round and we won today against the Dominicans also in a five-setter. I will be satisfied if we can repeat those performances in the final match,” said Calderon.

Danielle Scott, the USA captain, said: “As I said before, it will be very competitive. There are three very strong teams here, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and USA, and I anticipate a tough battle for the gold medal. On the other hand, I feel very happy qualifying for the World Cup and hope to be a good representative of the NORCECA region.”

In an earlier match for fifth place, Puerto Rico defeated Costa Rica in five sets 25-19, 20-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-13.