Finalists qualify for World Championship
With opposite Gaila Gonzalez in superb form, the Dominican Republic successfully defended their continental title as ‘Las Reinas del Caribe’ (The Queens of the Caribbean, in Spanish) triumphed at the 2021 Women’s NORCECA Senior Volleyball Continental Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Tuesday.
The winners of the 2019 edition of the tournament, the Dominicans, who are fresh from finishing eighth at the Tokyo Olympics, obtained their third continental title with a 3-2 (25-22, 15-25, 25-17, 21-25, 15-12) victory against Puerto Rico. It was a rematch of the 2009 gold medal match, also won by the Dominicans. Both teams have qualified for the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in the Netherlands and Poland.
A 2015 U20 world champion, Gonzalez was instrumental in the Dominican triumph as the 24-year-old opposite delivered 19 points (18 kills, one block) in the final. Star outside hitter Bethania De La Cruz tallied 15 (13 kills, two blocks) while team captain Prisilla Rivera and middle blocker Jineiry Martinez produced 13 each.
Puerto Rico also got strong production from their key players as outside hitters Stephanie Enright and Pilar Marie Victoria ended the match with 19 points each, while opposite Brittany Abercrombie registered 15.
Gonzalez’s excellent form during the tournament was acknowledged during the awarding ceremony. Besides being part of the tournament’s Dream Team, the left-handed Dominican also took home the Most Valuable Player and Top Scorer awards.
The Dream Team also featured Puerto Rican setter Natalia Valentin, Dominican outside hitters De La Cruz and Rivera, American middle blocker Rachael Kramer, Canadian middle blocker Jennifer Cross and Puerto Rican libero Shara Venegas.
Also winning individual awards were Mexican Jocelyn Urias, the best server, Costa Rican Maria Jose Castro, the best defender, and Venegas, who was awarded as the best receiver as well.
De La Cruz hits against the Puerto Rican block
The Dominicans are now set to make their ninth appearance at a World Championship – and the seventh straight. Their best result so far was a fifth-place finish obtained in 2014. For Puerto Rico, who entered the season with a new head coach in former player Fernando Morales, the 2022 World Championship will mark the country’s eighth appearance in the event. The Puerto Ricans, who last missed the tournament in 1998, will try to improve on the 12th-place they obtained in 2002.
Canada took bronze in Guadalajara after a five-set (25-17, 17-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-8) victory against the United States, in which Canadian opposite Kiera Van Ryk scored 24 points (17 kills, four aces and three blocks), three more than American opposite Veronica Perry, who had 18 kills, two blocks and one ace.