June 27, 2003 - The Puerto Rican women's team is hoping to continue its big improvement on the world stage with a top three finish at the Pan American Games, in Saltillo, México, which runs from June 30-July 5.
Following its historic 10th place finish at the 2002 World Championship in Germany, the “Borinquen” team has been going through an intense training programme following the conclusion of the National League, including a camp in Havana, Cuba, under the supervision of head coach David Aleman in a bid for a podium finish next week.
“Our goal is to be among the medallists in the Santo Domingo Pan American Games, and we are training with that in mind," Aleman said. "Regarding the Pan American Cup in Mexico we will make all our best effort to grab a place for next year's Grand Prix".
The Puerto Ricans recently finished third at the Salonpas Invitational Cup in Brazil and will go to the Pan American Cup looking for one of the four places assigned to the America Continent in the 2004 FIVB World Grand Prix, the premier annual event of women's Volleyball.
Crucial to their campaign is stellar spiker Aury Cruz, who has become the main weapon of the squad. Cruz, who made her debut in the national team in 1997 when she was just 15 years old, has also improved her reception game.
Meanwhile, the principal defensive responsibility will rest on the blocking of Jetzabel del Valle and Sheila Ocasio, whose combination at the net has been nicknamed “The Borinquen Great Wall”.
Del Valle, by the way, was the leading blocker during the first two rounds of the last World Championship in Germany.