August 11, 2003 - The Dominican Republic and USA both confirmed their spots in the semifinals of the Women´s tournament on Monday after victories over Puerto Rico and Venezuela respectively.
The Dominicans edged Puerto Rico in four emotional sets and will now meet Brazil on Thursday while the Americans, who outlasted Venezuela in straight sets, will face Cuba. Brazil and Cuba sealed their semifinal spots on Saturday.
In an excellent on court tussle the Dominican Republic won the first two sets 25-23, 25-22 before Puerto Rico came back to take the third 25-18. Both teams engaged in a hard fought battle in the fourth with the host team closing the match 33-31 before a large vocal crowd cheering on its feet in favor of the locals.
The victory for the Dominicans was a revenge for a loss at the hands of Puerto Rico in the World Championship last year in Germany.
Cosiris Rodriguez smashed 18 spikes and finished with 19 points leading the way for the Dominican attack. Milagros Cabral had 15 and Yudelkis Bautista and Nurys Arias 14 apiece.
“We didn´t play as well as can in the first three sets,” said Dominican coach Jorge Garbey. “I still think our best match in the tournament was against Cuba.”
“As I said before, our goal is to play for the gold medal against whoever wins in the other semifinal,” he added. “But first we have to play Brazil, a good young team.”
The Americans breezed through the first two sets of their match against Venezuela winning 25-18, 25-20 but had to fight hard to close the match at 36-34 with an ace from Erin Aldrich.
“We dominated the first two sets and Venezuela took a second wind in the third set, but we were able to have a couple of good blocks and closed the set for the victory,” said Mike Hebert, the American coach.
About their next encounter with Cuba, Hebert said: “In order to beat Cuba you have to serve and block better than today and also play defense. I know that we are capable of that but we have to be at our best.”
Nicole Branagh had 16 points for USA, Cynthia Barboza and Bachman had 11 apiece and Erin Aldrich contributed with 10.
Irina Bespalova, the Venezuelan coach, said: “I am very happy with the way my team played in the third set, but we lack experience, exposure and a lot of more things. USA have a bright future and they play with perfect organization.”
Alejandra Garcia led Venezuela with 15 points and Graciela Marquez added 11.
Puerto Rico will now play Venezuela for fifth place.
In the first match on Monday, Peru edged Mexico 3-2 (25-18, 29-27, 19-25, 22-25, 17-15) to take seventh place.