Puerto Rico, The World's Surprise Second-Round Qualifier
By ERICA BULMAN
September 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS.
All rights reserved.
RIESA, Germany (AP) - Tiny Puerto Rico shook up the pecking order in women's international volleyball, upsetting some of the planets' top teams in order to advance to the second round of the World Championships.
The outsider infiltrated the world's top-12, delivering surprising performances during five days of action-packed preliminary round action.
Puerto Rico pulled off a shocker, vaulting into the second round over two other South American opponents in Pool C, Argentina and the Dominican Republic, who were considered more likely second round candidates.
Puerto Rico, which measures just 160 kilometers by 58 (100 miles by 35) with a population of four million, has 12,000 volleyball players in 70 clubs spread across the tiny Caribbean island country.
The team's success has further boosted the interest in a country where women's matches can attract as many as 6,000 spectators.
"In the past we only practiced and practiced and then traveled abroad to participate in the season's highlights. We lacked the financial means to test our strength with international teams," said David Aleman, Puerto Rico's coach since 1999. "But now, all this has changed. Because the popularity of volleyball is constantly increasing. With results like this it will chance even more."
South Korea, Bulgaria, China and Puerto Rico moved to Stuttgart for Group F competition in the second round.
Play was scheduled to resume Friday.
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