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 Press Release
Puerto Rico and Mexico are favorites in Men’s Norceca-G

(From left): Carlos Cardona (PUR), Jorge Azair (MEX), Ludger Niles (BAR) and Jason Liburd (ISV)

Caguas, Puerto Rico, July 7, 2009 - Hosts Puerto Rico and Mexico are the early favorites as top contenders for the single ticket available in Norceca-G tournament to the Final Round of the Men’s FIVB World Championship next year in Italy.

While these two traditional regional powerhouses have the inside track in the race to Italy, the representatives of Barbados and U.S. Virgin Islands can’t be ruled out and are expected to represent a strong challenge to the other sides.

The winner of the competition books a direct spot in the world event while the second place finisher advances to a play-off along with two other runner-ups of third-round tournaments plus the best third place of that stage within Norceca Confederation.

Puerto Rico, currently No. 10 in the FIVB World Rankings, has the home court advantage at Hector Sola Bezares Coliseum. Barbados, who received byes in the previous two stages, is ranked 34, followed by Mexico (35), winners of Norceca-D in Jamaica. The non-ranked U.S. Virgin Islands is coming from a strong second place at Norceca-C in Trinidad and Tobago.

Hector Soto, the leading scorer of the 2007 World Cup, leads the Puerto Rican side and he considers the Mexican team as the main hurdle in their attempt to go to Italy.

“I think that the match against Mexico should decide the ticket,” he said. “They always have given us a tough battle and I don’t expect anything different this time. The competition is in Puerto Rico where we have played well in recent years and I have no doubt that we can keep playing at a level we know how to.”

Soto is not alone in the Puerto Rican side as Juan Figueroa, Victor Bird and Ivan Perez are expected to form a strong supporting cast in the attack.

The Mexican team is led by veteran Ivan Contreras, an explosive hitter, joined by the likes of Tomas Aguilera, Irving Bricio, Victor Porras and Francisco Enriquez among others.

The coaches of the four teams participated attended a press conference on Tuesday and the following are excerpts from their statements:

Carlos Cardona (Puerto Rico): “With the tournament being at home I think we have a big chance of advancing. We have a great respect for all the opponents but to my thinking we are going to define it with Mexico. These are two very similar teams but we have the home court advantage.”

Jorge Azair (Mexico): “We are bringing all our personnel and we are prepared for the match against Puerto Rico. I think it will be the deciding one.”

Ludger Niles (Barbados): “We hope to play hard and accumulate enough points to have a chance as the best third place team of the third round.”

Jason Liburd (U.S. Virgin Islands): “We want to take this competition as a learning process. We are going to take it day-by-day and hope to do our best.”

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