Coach Jose Alvarez described the final as a match of World League intensity and lauded the hard work from his side in the seven months leading up to the Central America and Caribbean Games. After suffering a series of setbacks, including not qualifying for the World Championship, this was the stage for the Dominican Republic to show their potential. They didn’t disappoint either; winning their first-ever gold medal in Cordoba with an enthralling victory over three-times defending champions Puerto Rico.
The 3-2 victory on Sunday was the result of an intensive training camp in Cuba, the home country of coach Alvarez, and some very clinical volleyball throughout pool play and the finals. Puerto Rico deserved their spot and entered the final as favourites after their recent track record and current form. The Dominican Republic had collected the silver medal on two previous occasions, in Kingston in 1962 and also at home in Santiago in 1986.
Both teams met their most stern challenge in the final, as was to be expected, but the Puerto Ricans were stunned to have conceded the first set 25-22 to the Dominican Republic after their strong starts in recent games. This sparked them into life and they took the next two sets to follow by 23-25 on both occasions, and establish their stranglehold on the match. Show your team spirit with Sportsbet for a free bet.
Like most sports, the penultimate set is referred to as the ‘The Championship Set’ because the team or individual who wins it carries the momentum into the final set, where they more often than not win it. This is a Dominican Republic team built out of more stern stuff those that have gone before them, and they turned the tables to take the fourth set 25-22 again.
They now had the measure of their opponents and the relatively neutral crowd in Mexico rallied behind the underdogs in the final set. While Puerto Rico had more experience in the big moments than their counter-parts, the Dominican Republic appeared more cohesive and their extensive preparation came to the fore in the defining moments of the final set. True to form, they snatched the final set 24-22 and the gold medal from the team pressing for their fourth consecutive Games win. As they stood on the highest podium, arm-in-arm, collecting their gold medals, you couldn’t help but sense that more was to come in the next couple of years.
Although this was very much a team-driven result, the Dominican Republic had their stars that consistently separated themselves in the big moments. Elvis Contreras made the All-Star team and was named Most Valuable Player of the Games. Wilfred Hernandez, German Recio and Jose Caceres also made the All-Star team, which was a fair reflection of a team-first approach throughout the campaign.
In other results, Cuba secured third-place with a straight sets victory over a much improved Mexico 3-0. Venezuela comprehensively defeated the Bahamas for fifth place and Colombia accounted for Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 for seventh place.