Bethania de la Cruz (DOM)

The 2019 international season was a prolific one for the Dominican Republic women’s national team. The Caribbeans won the NORCECA Championships for the third time and the Pan-American Games for a second. They also secured important victories against some of the strongest teams in the world.

The team led by head coach Marcos Kwiek defeated a good United States side in the final of the NORCECA Championships and upset the North Americans again in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League, as well as Russia, Brazil and Japan.

With the team back together for the first time in 14 months and just a few days away from their 2021 VNL debut against USA on May 25, the 53-year-old Kwiek expects ‘Las Reinas de Caribe’ (The Queens of the Caribbean, in Spanish) to gradually get back to their best form.

“The first goal is to get back to the level of performance we were at in 2019,” Kwiek told Volleyball World. “That was probably the season in which we were the most solid and mature as a team. We had great balance in every aspect of the game and I’d love it if we could get back to that level and hopefully continue improving from there. We weren’t able to play friendlies before the VNL and the team hasn’t been together since January 2020. So I’m really looking forward to our first match to see where the team is at right now.”

Kwiek is taking 15 players to the VNL

Kwiek is taking 15 players to the VNL

Some players who are part of the country’s permanent national team programme have been practising since August, but the roster wasn’t complete until the beginning of May, when some of the squad’s most important pieces arrived after finishing their club seasons around the world. To Kwiek, the process of returning to play is still ongoing, but the team are ready to get started.

“Returning after such a long time isn’t easy, especially because no one had ever experienced this before,” the coach explained. “We were very cautious in the way we approached it, taking baby steps with the players and working in coordination with our physical trainer and psychologist the entire time. I think we accomplished as much as we could and are on a good path to accomplish what we want. The players responded well to our training and didn’t pick up any injuries, which is obviously really important.”

Besides regaining the team’s best form, Kwiek has another goal to accomplish during the VNL, which is determining which 12 players will represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics in two months.

The coach is currently working with a group of 22 players and 15 of them have made the trip to Rimini, Italy, where the VNL will be played in a secure ‘bubble’. Kwiek plans to experiment with all of them to help him make a final decision.

“We’re going to play at least 15 matches in the VNL and we want to make the most of it,” he added. “It will be important for us to keep growing as a team, but also for me to make some decisions regarding the Olympic roster. The goal is to give opportunities to all 15 players who are making the trip and then based on how the team respond, that will help me determine the best way to build the roster for Tokyo.”

Dominican Republic's 2021 VNL Roster

Setters: Niverka Marte, Camil Dominguez, Yokaty Perez

Opposites: Brayelin Martinez, Gina Mambru, Gaila Gonzalez

Outside Hitters: Bethania De La Cruz, Prisilla Rivera, Yonkaira Pena

Middle Blockers: Annerys Vargas, Lisvel Eve, Marifranchi Rodriguez, Jineiry Martinez

Liberos: Brenda Castillo, Larysmer Martinez