Puerto Rico and Mexico won the NORCECA Final Four tournaments for women and for men, respectively, to qualify for Volleyball Challenger Cup 2024, whose champions will earn the right to compete in Volleyball Nations League 2025.
Puerto Rican women and Mexican men qualify for Challenger Cup 2024
The two teams win NORCECA Final Four tournaments for a chance to make it to VNL 2025
Pubblicato 12:11, 13 Jun 2023
The NORCECA Women’s Final Four event was held in Juana Diaz over the weekend, with hosts Puerto Rico winning all three of their matches in the four-team single round-robin competition without dropping a single set along the way. They started with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-16) win over US Virgin Islands and went on to master a 3-0 (25-14, 27-25, 25-9) victory over Trinidad & Tobago. Costa Rica also defeated the two teams to set up a direct battle with Puerto Rico for the gold on Sunday.
The home side hammered out another shutout, 3-0 (25-23, 25-10, 25-7), to celebrate as tournament winners, leaving Costa Rica with the silver and Trinidad & Tobago with the bronze.
“It was important to win this tournament and, not just win this tournament, but to do what we have practiced with this new group,” said Puerto Rico’s head coach Fernando Morales. “We played and won the gold medal against the best team in this tournament and, winning the ticket to the Volleyball Challenger Cup is a new opportunity to qualify for the VNL. Last year we couldn't do it in Croatia, but with the complete team, we realize that we have a much better chance of qualifying this time.”
Puerto Rico’s playmaker Wilmarie Rivera was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the NORCECA Final Four. Setter Melissa Campos (Costa Rica), opposite Tatiana Sayles (Costa Rica), outside hitters Channon Thompson (Trinidad & Tobago) and Marcela Araya (Costa Rica), middle blockers Paola Rojas (Puerto Rico) and Alba Hernandez (Puerto Rico), and libero Maria Jose Castro (Costa Rica) were recognized on the tournament Dream Team. The latter was also awarded as the Best Digger and the Best Receiver. Channon Thompson took the award for Best Scorer, while her teammate Krystle Esdelle was honoured as the Best Server.
At the same time, the NORCECA Men’s Final Four took place in Durango and hosts Mexico pushed through it undefeated to claim the trophy and the ticket to the Challenger Cup. The Mexicans cruised through their first two matches to shut out Guatemala by 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-22) and Dominican Republic by 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-20).
On the last day, they needed to win at least a set against Puerto Rico to secure the first place in the final standings, but they went on to claim a five-set 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 22-25, 15-12) victory, which left the opponents in third place with the bronze, while the silver went to Dominican Republic.
“Puerto Rico knew if they could win by 3-0 they would be the ones to qualify to the Challenger Cup,” said Mexico’s head coach Jorge Azair. “They came out strong in the first set and we were anxious. In the second set, we calmed down, we committed fewer errors and we got the serves on court. My guys showed their courage. They qualified to the World Championship and had a good performance there. Now they qualify to the Challenger Cup to battle for the VNL. They are worth the gold and I am proud of them!”
Mexico’s setter and captain Pedro Rangel earned the MVP recognition. The Dream Team of the competition was made up of setter Juan Ruiz (Puerto Rico), opposite Diego Gonzalez (Mexico), outside hitters Josue Lopez (Mexico) and Pedro Molina (Puerto Rico), middle blockers Luther Rosario (Dominican Republic) and Victor Parra (Mexico), and libero Enger Mieses (Dominican Republic). Molina also claimed the award for Best Scorer. Dominican Republic’s Henry Lopez was the Best Server of the tournament, while his teammate Mieses added two more awards to his individual collection, for Best Receiver and for Best Digger.