Puerto Rico to face Mexico for NORCECA U17 Gold and Qualifies to World Championship

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, November 25, 2023. – Puerto Rico defeated Dominican Republic 3-1 (25-22, 25-19, 18-25, 29-27) in semifinals to face Mexico for the gold medal at  the NORCECA Girls’ Under-17  Championship in Tegucigalpa and qualified to the 2024 FIVB World Championship.

Puerto Rico, along with Mexico, earned two of the three slots for the World Championship. In the pool-play, Puerto Rico defeated Mexico in straight sets.

Dominican Republic will face Canada on Sunday for the bronze medal and for the last spot in the World Championship. Canada defeated the Dominican Republic in four sets in the first phase of the event.

Despite Dominican Republic finishing with advantages in attacks (51-49), blocks (11-9), and direct aces (9-4), Puerto Rico won the semifinal capitalizing on 35 errors compared to 22 of their own.

Sara Lozano PUR

Puerto Rico’s outside hitter Sara Lozano was the top scorer of the match with 21 kill points. Team captain Kalia Alvarado contributed 15 points on  14 attacks and one block. Outside hitter Diangelie González added 14 points on 9 attacks, 2 blocks, and 3 aces.

Dominican opposite hitter Isabella Cerda led her team with 16 points, including 10 kills and a match-high of 5 aces. Estel Santos and Caroline Rodriguez contributed 14 and 12 points respectively.

Despite the Dominican Republic dominating with blocks from Mondesi and Rodriguez, Puerto Rico recovered from a three-point deficit (13-16) to take the first set with a kill point from Lozano.

Puerto Rico led with a four-point advantage (14-10) in the second set, which they maintained with the offensive efforts of Sara Lozano and Diangelie González and benefiting  from consecutive errors by the Dominican Republic.

In the third set, led by Isabella Cerda and taking advantage of Puerto Rico’s errors, Dominicans held   a seven-point lead (16-9). Cerda closed the set 25-18 with an ace.

In the fourth set, with three consecutive service points from Isabella Cerda and two kills from Cristal Mercedes, the Dominican Republic reached set point (24-19), but Puerto Rico snatched the victory in a dramatic finish at 29-27.

Juan Carlos Nuñez, the coach of Puerto Rico, said, “These games between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are filled with a lot of emotion due to the history we bring. I am proud of these girls for accepting the challenge; they have followed the game plan for the 5 and a half weeks we’ve been together. Puerto Rico managed to pressure the service in those final points to come from behind, to close with the victory, they (Dominican Republic) are a strong group but lack ball control”.

Wilson Sánchez, coach of the Dominican Republic said, “It was a match filled with many emotions because of the rivalry between our countries. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use our starting setter because she wasn’t feeling well, and the team was mentally blocked. We fought; we had an advantage in the first set that we lost, as well as in the fourth with 24-20. The players couldn’t handle the nerves to close it. Tomorrow, we’ll fight for the last ticket to the World Championship”.