Mexico First-Ever NORCECA U17 Champion with a five-set comeback against Puerto Rico

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, November 26, 2023. – Mexico is the First-ever NORCECA Girls’ U17  Sub-Champion in a comeback five-set victory 3-2 (23-25, 23-25, 27-25, 25-21, 15-5) against Puerto Rico at the Jorge Galeano Gymnasium in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Mexico finishes the event with a 5-1 record, and Puerto Rico with 4-1, both qualifying for the 2024 FIVB World Championship. The third World Championship ticket went to Canada, who won the bronze medal match against the Dominican Republic.

Mexico outperformed Puerto Rico with a 67-57 advantage in attacks, 15-9 in blocks, and 8-2 in aces. Mexico scored 23 points on Puerto Rico’s unforced errors but gave away 33.

Mexican opposite hitter Yliana Zúñiga, led all scorers with 28 points, on 24 kills and 4 blocks. Team captain Aitana Tanguma contributed 24 points, on 13 kills, a match-high of 7 blocks and 4 aces. While outside hitter Kenia Martínez added 16 kill points.

Puerto Rico’s captain, Kalia Alvarado, led her team with 26 points on 25 kills and one ace. Outside hitter Sara Lozano contributed 24 points on 21 kills and 3 blocks, and Diangelie González tallied 13 points.

Mexico, Puerto Rico y Canadá

Mexico made a formidable recovery from a two-set deficit after both teams traded the lead during the first four sets. Puerto Rico bounced back from a six-point deficit (8-14) in the second set with blocks from Natashja Soto and Victoria Camacho, accompanied by Kalia Alvarado’s kills. Mexico took the lead with Yliana Zúñiga and Brenda Esquivel offense, but after a series of errors, Puerto Rico closed the set. Mexico forced a fourth set and then the tie-break with an ace and a kill  from team captain Aitana Tanguma, respectively. Mexico dominated the fifth set, jumping to an 8-0 lead with their powerful attacks and precise blocks.

Mexico’s captain, Aitana Rettke Tanguma, said, “We never thought we were going to lose. We had a clear goal of winning the gold medal, and we weren’t going to give up. I changed my position to middle, to fight with all my heart to take home the gold medal. I asked the coach to use me as a middle blocker to contribute to my team because I’ve only been playing as outside hitter for five months”.

Mexico’s coach, Ignacio Sánchez, expressed, “We played well throughout the entire match. We couldn’t close in the first sets because we were making a lot of mistakes with our middles, so we decided to take a risk and switch Aitana’s position, and we had revolutionary results for the team. We came in with a mindset to win the gold medal. The match was highly contested. This is a great group of girls who worked well together with the coaching staff”.