Cuba team to beat in
the Philippines, June 30, 2005 - The last time Cuba won
the World Grand Prix was way back in 2000 when the
finals were held in Manila. This year, the three-time
Olympic medalists will be using the Manila leg as a
springboard for a possible third title when the 2005
FIVB World Grand Prix kicks off Friday at the Philsports
Arena (formerly ULTRA) in Pasig City.
The Cubans, who won their first Grand Prix title in
1993, remain the sentimental favorite to claim the
Manila leg after topping the first leg in Reggio
Calabria in Italy last weekend, which they ruled after
winning all three matches.
Pic: Cuba will play Italy for the second week in a
Led by the veteran Yumika Ruiz and top rookie Zoila
Barros, Cuba swept past Germany, the Dominican Republic
and hosts Italy – all via three setters. Germany was the
first to fall (29-27, 27-25, 27-25), followed by the
Dominican Republic ( 28-26, 27-15,25-18) and Italy
(27-25, 25-20, 30-28).
The victory enabled the Cubans to amass a total of six
ranking points in a tie with China and Brazil,
who topped the Ningbo, China and Tokyo, Japan legs,
respectively, in the same week.
But after hearing Cuba coach Felix Calderon Biet say it,
the Cubans' chances of topping the Manila leg are the
same as anybody else's.
"All the teams that are here are hard to beat, because
all these teams have prepared well for this
tournament. Cuba also has new young players so it's
really hard to say. But we'll do our best," said Biet
during the press conference held yesterday at the
Manansala Room at the Holiday Inn Manila Galleria, the
tournament official hotel.
Italy, who settled for runner’s-up honors behind Cuba
only a week ago, is looking to avenge the painful loss
to the Cubans. The Italians beat the Germans and the
Dominican Republic for a 2-1 score and five ranking
points in a tie with Japan. And for coach Marco Bonitta,
the Manila leg is a good opportunity to come up with an
even better performance. "We hope to play better here
and improve our play, and if possible, win all three
matches," said Bonitta, whose team placed second behind
Brazil last year in the finals held in their homecourt
in Reggio Calabria.
Admittedly the top favorites here, the Cubans and the
Italians will still have to get past a tall the
Netherlands team, and Thailand, a potential crowd
favorite being the country's next-door neighbor in
The Dutch have never figured in the top three of the
Grand Prix but have always figured well in the Olympics
and other tournaments in Europe. But coach Avital
Selinger said his team must play consistently to be at
par with the other teams in the Grand Prix calendar.
"We have to play consistently and maintain a top level
of play because that's seem to be the problem of the
team. At times we play well, and there are times that we
don't play as well. But I believe we have the potential
to play alongside the best talents in the world," said
Selinger, whose team upset the United States and beat
Thailand in the Ningbo, China leg to gather five ranking
Lastly, the Thais, who had won every SEAG women's
volleyball crown since 1995, said they do not expect to
beat any team any team in the Manila leg. "We don't
expect to beat any team here, but we feel blessed to be
able to play the best teams in the world," said coach
The Thais, the only Southeast Asian team in the Grand
Prix, have 17 players listed in their line-up and coach
Chanbunchess said most of these players will see action
in the 23rd Manila SEA Games in November.