The year 2009 has been a challenging yet extraordinary year for the Dominican Republic Women’s National Team, with several of the team’s key players injured and junior players coming in to fill the gaps.
During the VIII Pan American Cup, the Dominicans won Pool A with a 3-0 record and then won come-from-behind, five-set battles against United States and Puerto Rico in the semifinal and final. In the gold-medal contest, they survived five-match points in the fourth set before prevailing 32-30.
The team was the subject of many accolades and recognition after arriving home following the Pan American victory. The players were called “Queens of Volleyball” by the local media who noted that the win capped the completion of a Golden Regional Cycle of titles won at the Central American and Caribbean Games, Pan American Games, Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Continental.
The year marked a great leap forward for the Dominican Republic after some lean years recently.
In 2007, several injuries affected top players, who were unable to take part in the 15th Pan American Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nevertheless, the team's junior players were able to perform at their best during this important intercontinental event and the Dominicans finished fifth.
The Dominicans finished 11th at the FIVB 2007 World Grand Prix events, and, with key players back, the bronze medal was secured at the 6th Pan American Women's Volleyball Cup held in Colima, Mexico. After an exciting match against USA, the Dominican girls prevailed 25-19, 26-28, 25-18, 28-26.
During the 2007 NORCECA Continental Women's Volleyball Championship, held in the city of Winnipeg, Canada, the Dominican Republic also claimed the bronze with victory over Canada 25-17, 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-13.
The Dominicans hopes of qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games were dashed after they were beaten by Canada 3-0 (24-26, 17-25, 19-25) in the semifinals of the Women's Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament in December 2007 and they eventually finished fourth after losing the bronze-medal match 3-2 to Puerto Rico.
Earlier this year the team finished 11th at the World Grand Prix with a 1-8 record.
Now everything is focused on the World Grand Champions Cup and preparing for the 2010 Women's World Championship in Japan, after the Dominicans became the first team to qualify for the Final Round along with defending champions Russia and the hosts, who received byes. The Dominicans dominated NORCECA Pool H, going undefeated at the four-nation tournament without dropping a single set.
It has been a long journey to this point for the Dominican women's team.
Volleyball was introduced in the Dominican Republic in 1916 by the United States Marine Corps and they played in their first international event in 1934, with the Caribbean Volleyball Tournament being held in Port of Prince, Haiti.
In 1974 in Mexico, the Women's National Team played in their first FIVB World Championship. They also took part in the 1978 World Championship in Moscow, Russia.
In 1997, the Dominican Women claimed bronze at the NORCECA Continental Championship. In 1998, they qualified for the World Championship in Japan and finished in the top 10. They also participated in the 2002 World Championship in Germany.
At the 2003 World Cup, the qualifying event for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the National Team finished 10th.
In December 2003, because of non-qualification in the World Cup, the Dominican Girls participated in the NORCECA Women's Olympic Qualification Tournament in Santo Domingo, finishing second to qualify for the Intercontinental Women's Olympic Qualification Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela.
This historical event saw the National Team finish with an undefeated record, winning every match 3-0 against Venezuela, Argentina and Peru to qualify for the Olympics for the first time.
Participating for the second time in the World Grand Prix in 2005, the girls from Santo Domingo battled strongly against USA and Germany to finish 11th overall.
The Dominican Republic Women's National Team then qualified for a fifth time for the World Championship, finishing second at the World Championship Qualification Tournament, NORCECA-E, in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
In their third consecutive participation in the World Grand Prix in 2006, the National Team finished eighth after obtaining second place in the Poland stage of the competition, finishing ahead of USA and the hosts.
Dominican Women's National Team coach Marcos Kwiek enters the 2009 FIVB Grand Champions Cup with optimism after his team’s gold-medal victory at the 2009 NORCECA Continental Championship to qualify for this important event for the first time.
"Our goal at the 2009 FIVB Grand Champions Cup will be to finish among the top four teams," Kwiek said.
Achievements at recent international competitions include:
2008 FIVB World Grand Prix: 8th place
2008 I Final Four Cup: Silver medal
2008 Salonpas Cup: 5th place
2009 China International Tournament: 2nd place
2009 VIII Women's Pan American Cup: Silver medal
2010 World Championship Qualification Tournament: Gold medal
2009 II Final Four Cup: Silver medal
2009 FIVB World Grand Prix: 11th place
2009 NORCECA Women's Continental Championship: Gold medal and qualification for the 2009 Grand Champions Cup