The Cuban women's Volleyball team is hoping to close out 2003 by qualifying for the Olympic Games either by claiming one of the three tickets available at the 2003 World Cup, which starts in Japan on Saturday, or winning the Continental Olympic qualifying tournament held in the Dominican Republic in December.
While the big favorites are in attendance in Japan, the new generation of the Cuban woman's team "las Morenas del Caribe," will be present with their best players and surely won't let slip the opportunity to qualify for a great summer event, one which the Cuban women's team is the champion of at Barcelona-92, Atlanta-96 and Sydney-2000.
The most difficult obstacle for the team and the coaches Eugenio George and Luis Felipe Cauldron is that since gaining the title in the Australian city the team underwent a big transformation period when several of its stellar figures retired due to the age of the majority of them or their interest to be become mothers.
Of those who stood on the podium at Sydney 2000, Yumilka Ruiz, Marta Sánchez and Zoila Barros are still there and head this team of young players who have played inconsistently in the World Grand Prix, the Pan-American Cup and other NORCECA tournaments in the past three years.
Yumilka and Marta are two attackers who contribute a great deal to the team not only by their power and effectiveness but also by their shear determination that they exhibit every time they go on court.
Ruiz was honored as the Best Scorer at the 2002 World Championship in Germany and in the NORCECA Continental Championship, where Cuba qualified for the World Cup, while Zoila finished as the Best Server at the recent Pan-American Cup.
Another encouraging sign is the development of the 17-year-old 190cm Nancy Carrillo, who has been limited in play recently due to a fractured finger. But she already recovered and will be a source of inspiration for Cuba at the net in attack and on the block as she continues to perfect her technique.
Cuba start their campaign on Saturday against the Dominican Republic, one of the teams that has advanced in recent years and that has given Cuba a good run in the past year. At the Pan-American Cup and the NORCECA Continental Championship this year both games finished at 3-2 with the teams winning one match each.