Varna, Bulgaria, June 18, 2016 - The Dominican Republic emerged as the first finalist in Group 2 of FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix 2016. In an all-Caribbean semifinal they claimed a 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 29-27, 25-14) victory over Puerto Rico and are waiting for their opponent in Sunday’s crucial match for promotion to Group 1. Captain Bethania De La Cruz was the top scorer of the match with 18 points for the winning team.
With 14 blocking points, the Dominican Republic completely outblocked Puerto Rico. That and the many opponents’ errors were the main contribution to their victory. Brayelin Elizabeth Martinez and Annerys Victoria Vargas Valdez led the blockers with 5 points in that department each. Stephanie Enright with 16 points and Karina Ocasio with 15 were Puerto Rico's best scorers.
This was the Dominican Republic’s third World Grand Prix victory in four matches against Puerto Rico. This was also Puerto Rico’s first defeat in this year’s competition.
Puerto Rico started off better, taking an early lead, but the Dominican Republic quickly caught up and shortly after the technical time-out stepped ahead to a 12-9 lead, only to be immediately cancelled by the Puerto Ricans, with Karina Ocasio behind the serving line, towards a 13-12 turnaround. The fierce battle, both on the playing court and via the video challenge system, continued. After 20-20, the serving turns of Ocasio and Aurea Cruz gave Puerto Rico the edge before an ace by Lynda Morales closed the set off at 25-21.
With Bethania De La Cruz now on fire, both in offence and from the serving line, the Dominicans responded with a 9-3 lead at the beginning of the second set. At this point Puerto Rico stepped up their spiking efforts and managed to narrow the gap down to two points at 13-15. But this was as close as they could get. Some great blocking in the money time added to the Dominican Republic’s advantage. Despite failing to convert several set points, the Dominicans finally finished it off at 25-22 with De La Cruz celebrating her great performance in the set with a successful attack for the last point.
Puerto Rico shot up to a 3-0 lead in the third set, but the Dominican blockers made sure the balance was immediately re-established. The score stayed level through 12-12. After that the Puerto Ricans took advantage of some opponents’ errors to help break away with a 17-12 lead, but later returned the favour to allow for a Dominican comeback – 20-20. It went point for point from then on. The Dominicans missed out on four set points before converting the fifth one for 29-27, again with a hit by De La Cruz.
The intense battle continued into the fourth set. Puerto Rico were attacking well, but were also making far too many unforced errors. The Dominican Republic showed more precision in their game and took a 13-9 lead. Adding to that some great blocking again, they went on a break with a 16-10 advantage. With Brayelin Martinez chipping in at the net and Puerto Rico continuing to contribute with their mistakes, the rest of the set was quite one-sided. Led by their captain De La Cruz, the Dominicans cruised to a 25-14 win.