|The Puerto Ricans take part in a World Olympic Qualification Tournament for the first time after finishing second at their Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament in January, when the team lost a dramatic Final Match to USA.
This followed an extremely successful 2007. Led by the irrepresible Héctor “Picky” Soto, the national team finished second in both the NORCECA Championship and Pan-American Cup and sixth in an historical debut at the FIVB 2007 World Cup, a performance that included victories over USA, Spain and Japan.
Soto produced a stunning performance during the FIVB World Cup, notching a new point record of 43 in a match against Korea. Soto won the Best Scorer award in all competitions in which he participated in 2007.
Puerto Rico Team has prepared well for tough matches against hosts Portugal and 2006 World Championship runners-up Poland, and will proceed with caution ahead of its first-ever confrontation with Indonesia.
Puerto Rico play exhibition matches against France and Italy as part of their preparations for the tournament, where the national team will be looking to qualify for the Summer Games for the first time.
Puerto Rican Volleyball Federation President Carlos Beltran said four matches were confirmed against the French and Italian national teams.
Prior to arriving in Portugal, the Puerto Ricans were set to travel to Paris on May 15 where they will be reunited with their players currently performing in the different European Leagues. They will train at the Paris Volley Club till May 19, when the team will go to Milan until May 24. They go back to France for a match on May 27.
Carlos D. Cardona led the Puerto Rico Men's National Team to a fantastic performance at the 2007 FIVB World Cup and 2007 NORCECA Continental Championship, but his excellent coaching record goes a lot further back than that.
Cardona, born in Rosario, Argentina, began a successful coaching career soon after graduation from university. He has spent time coaching in the Argentina National League, the Italian Serie A (with three different clubs, Grottazzolina, Petrolifano and Gioia) and also in the Italian Serie B (with Grottazzolina and Piceno).
In 2003, he moved to Puerto Rico to coach club side San Juan Playeros in the Puerto Rico Men's League. In this successful spell, Cardona guided his team to the Final Series once and various semi-finals.
The Puerto Rico Volleyball Federation noticed Cardona's good work and in 2006 selected him to coach the national team for that year's FIVB Men’s World Championship in Japan.
In September 2007, after time away, Cardona returned to Puerto Rico and with just a short period of preparation united the national team and guided them to an historical second-place finish in the NORCECA Championship before a commendable sixth place spot at the FIVB World Cup.