Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sept 18, 2003 - USA conquered Cuba on Friday to take home the gold medal from the NORCECA Continental Women's Championship. Both teams win berths to the coming World Cup, the first Olympic qualifier.
Dominican Republic came in third, dismissing Canada in straight sets for their medal.
The Americans scored a convincing victory although the Cubans fought hard in the vital third set to finish 25-22, 25-17, 30-28. It completed an outstanding performance that mixed power with finesse during the entire tournament.
"We achieved the two goals we were aiming for," said Danielle Scott, the USA captain, "first qualifying for the World Cup and then winning the gold medal."
"It wasn't easy because the Cubans presented a tough battle in the third set, but we combined to get the victory. They played with a lot of desire and heart but we found the way to prevail," she said.
"This is basically the team representing USA in the World Cup," said Toshi Yoshida, the American coach. "There are some things we need to improve but we played very consistent for the first two sets and somehow found the way to win the third one."
"Our block was OK for the first two sets and the third was disputed when they hit some huge and accurate spikes," he added.
Prikeba Phipps was the best attacker for USA with 15 points.
Luis Felipe Calderon, the Cuban coach said: "Our team played below par during most of the match and we knew it would be a very tough game. We reacted in the third but we lacked the consistency and USA has a good team who commits few mistakes."
The Dominican Republic won the match 25-22, 25-19, 25-21.
Cosiris Rodriguez led the host squad with 14 points and Yudelkis Bautista added 13. Sarah Pavan had 13 for Canada.
"I am satisfied with the bronze medal and the way my team played in the semifinals going five sets against Cuba," said Dominican coach Jorge Garbey. "We know now that we can play the Cubans pretty even and nobody can predict the outcome."
Francia Jackson, the Dominican captain said: "Tonight we went out most determined and everyone contributed."
Lorne Shawula, the Canadian coach, added: "Dominican Republic is one of the powers in the region and today we couldn't match up their play. I congratulate them and also the organizers of a very good tournament."