The “Caribbean Queens” stroll into the World Championship
Bethania de la Cruz thanked the crowd in La Romana for their support
Lausanne, Switzerland, May 27, 2014 - Although the Dominican Republic qualified for the FIVB Women’s World Championship with ease, star player Bethania de la Cruz was overjoyed by her team's performance in La Romana.
“Thanks to God that we achieved the qualification to the World Championships. We are blessed,” was the message she posted on Facebook after the successful qualifying tournament. She went on to promise: “We continue to work hard to achieve our goals.”
The upwards trend witnessed in recent years in the Dominican Republic's volleyball fortunes has resulted in the goals for the FIVB Women’s World Championship from September 23 to October 12 in Italy being more ambitious. And the draw for the Final Round augurs well for the ladies from the Caribbean island, who have an excellent opportunity to pick up their best result in the history of the competition. The Dominican Republic face hosts Italy, Germany, Croatia, Argentina and Tunisia in a comparatively easy group A.
Making their seventh appearance in the World Championship - the fifth in a row - the Dominican Republic have their sights set on a top-ten finish. Eleventh in 1998 is their best result to date, but the Dominican women are surely capable of far more. If that much was not already clear, then emphatic proof came in the form of fifth place at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, when the team only lost out to the eventual silver medallists from the USA in the quarterfinals. The Dominican Republic are perhaps just outside the world elite, but are capable of beating virtually any team on a good day.
The “Queens of Volleyball”, as they are lovingly known by local media, have long since taken over from three-time Olympic champions Cuba as the dominant team in the Caribbean. This is proven by their eighth position in the world rankings and the fact that they have now finished on the podium seven times in a row at the championship held by the NORCECA federation. 2009 produced the first title, followed by two silver medals.
The Dominican Republic secured its ticket for the FIVB Women’s World Championship in style in front of its home fans in the coastal resort of La Romana. El Salvador and Guadeloupe were easily dispatched. Nicaragua, who still have a second opportunity to qualify via the playoff tournament, succumbed to the same fate in the final. The home team thrilled the 4,000 spectators at the Eleoncio Mercedes Coliseum with a commanding 3-0 (25-10, 25-8, 25-11) win.
“Thanks La Romana for the unconditional support and for showing us so much love and admiration,” said a grateful Bethania de la Cruz. The attacker, who was the second highest scorer with 177 points at last year’s World Grand Prix, and who will play her volleyball at top Turkish club Eczacibasi Istanbul in the future, was rested for the entire match. The key players in the victory were Yonkaira Peña and Gina Mambru with 14 and 13 points.
The Dominican Republic hit eleven aces. “It was a phenomenal performance by our team,” commented the successful coach, Brazilian Marcos Kwiek: “Everything worked like a perfect machine and I am very proud because they were really focused despite the difference between the two teams.” An overjoyed Gina Mambru was named MVP: “It was a great weekend for me and my team.”
Nicaragua’s coach Rene Quintana expects the Dominican Republic to play a major role at the FIVB Women’s World Championship: “The Dominican team is very strong.”
The World Grand Prix, which takes place between July 25 and August 24, will serve as the perfect preparation. The preliminary round sees the Dominican Republic take on the other eleven best teams in the world: defending champions and world no. 1 Brazil, USA, Japan, China, World Champions Russia, Italy, Serbia, Germany, Korea, Turkey and Thailand. The round-robin tournaments (each with four teams) on three weekends will determine which four countries progress to the final round.
The Dominican Republic are making their tenth appearance in a row at the World Grand Prix. They will be looking to spring a positive surprise there, just as they hope to at the FIVB Women’s World Championship.