Puerto Rico secured the first continental title in its history as the country triumphed at the 2021 Men’s NORCECA Senior Volleyball Continental Championship in Durango, Mexico, on Monday. The nation had previously won silver in 2007 and bronze in 2009 and 2015.
Puerto Rico win historic NORCECA Championship gold
Country takes place at top of the podium for the first time and also qualifies for next year’s World Championship
Published 07:06, 24 Aug 2021
The Central Americans defeated Canada in straight sets (25-18, 25-21, 25-23) to step on to the top step of the podium at the continental level for the first time, joining Cuba (16 titles), the United States (nine) and Canada (one) as the tournament winners. The two finalists also secured spots at the 2022 FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship in Russia.
“What a beautiful feeling it is to reach your goals, but also how beautiful it is to make history,” Puerto Rican head coach Oswald Antonetti said. “Teams must be tenacious, have personality and a substance of values and identity to make things like this happen. We are enjoying the moment, each play and the process. Listening to 'La Borinqueña' (the Puerto Rico national anthem) was really emotional”.
The Puerto Ricans will appear in a World Championship for the sixth time (and a fifth time consecutively) and will be looking to improve on their 12th-place finish in 2006. Canada will play in the World Championship for the 12th time next year, having missed the event just once (in 1986) since their debut, in 1974. Their best finish was a seventh in 2014.
Star opposite Gabriel Garcia was Puerto Rico’s top scorer in the gold medal match with 11 points (ten kills and one ace), followed by outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas with ten (seven kills, two blocks, one ace). Canadian outside hitter Brandon Koppers led all scorers with 14 (12 kills and two blocks).
“This was teamwork, we believed in ourselves, in the system and each other individually,” Garcia said. “We enjoyed this victory as a team, winning was the only thing on our minds today.”
Puerto Rico’s setter and team captain Arturo Iglesias received the Most Valuable Player award of the tournament. Dennis Del Valle was the best libero and best defender of the event.
Mexico finished third after a 3-1 (22-25, 25-18, 30-28, 27-25) victory over Cuba while the United States claimed fifth following their four-set (21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-21) win against the Dominican Republic.
The 2021 Women’s NORCECA Senior Volleyball Continental Championship starts on Thursday in Guadalajara, Mexico, and will reunite seven national teams from the region, including reigning Olympic champions the United States.