The year 2007 was a challenging one for the Dominican Republic Women's National Team.
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, and then, with key players back, the bronze medal was secured at the sixth 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, Manitoba, Canada, the Dominican Republic Women's National Volleyball Team 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 semi-finals 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.
Now everything is focused on the Women's World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo, Japan.
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 in 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 and because of non-qualification in the World Cup, the Dominican Girls participated in the NORCECA Women Olympic Qualification Tournament in Santo Domingo, obtaining second place after Cuba and the opportunity to participate in 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 Poland.
Miguel Beato Cruz is in an optimistic mood approaching his third full season as Head Coach of the Dominican Women's National Team.
He has led the team to the gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia in 2007, an eighth-place finish at the 2006 FIVB World Grand Prix, bronze at the 2006 and 2007 Pan American Women's Volleyball Cup, as well as the bronze medal at the NORCECA Continental Women's Championship.
The latter qualified the Dominican Team, as the third-place, highest FIVB world-ranking team, to the 2007 World Cup.
The Dominican Team's eighth-place finish at the 2006 World Grand Prix was its best showing at the event. They secured victories against USA and Poland in Bydgoszcz and pushed Brazil and Japan to five sets in Macau and Okayama, respectively.
It has been a very busy year for the squad both in terms of competition and preparation and Cruz is enthusiastic regarding the challenge ahead.
"Our goal at the 2008 FIVB Women's World Olympic Qualification Tournament will be to finish among the top four teams," says Cruz.
"Above all things, we need to accomplish that goal if we are going to advance in our qualification to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China."
Cruz, 59, is a graduate from the University of Santo Domingo with a Master's Degree in Physical Education.