Puerto Rico in action during the FIVB Volleyball Women's U20 World Championship in the Czech Republic in 2013
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 1, 2015 - Puerto Rico will host the FIVB Volleyball Women's U20 World Championship from September 11-19 and the Caribbean country is looking forward to hosting the world's most talented young volleyball players.
“We are very proud of this opportunity to host the World Championship and have obtained the full support of four great cities in Puerto Rico,” said Puerto Rican
Volleyball Federation President Nelson Perez. “I am sure we will have a successful event.”
The Women's U20 World Championship will be played in the cities of Caguas, Juncos, Gurabo and Maunabo and the fans are looking forward to one of the biggest volleyball events in the country’s history. The national leagues in Puerto Rico are of a very high standard and the national teams have been punching above their weight on the world scene since the turn of the millennium. Both the men’s and women’s teams have been involved in the last three senior World Championships - a demonstration of how the country has moved up the ranks in international volleyball.
Arguably, the country's most famous player is Hector Soto – an international volleyball legend. At the 2006 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship in Japan, he outscored all the other international stars to become the tournament’s top scorer. The Japanese media nicknamed him “Soto-Man”, in reference to Superman. Puerto Rico finished twelfth - their best result in five World Championships to date. Four years later, Puerto Rico finished 13th and they finished 21st at last year’s FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Poland.
The scouts at top club teams around the world have kept an eye on the powerful players from Puerto Rico for a while now. Soto, for example, has played in Belgium, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Turkey. Female role model Aury Cruz will play her volleyball at Italy’s top club Novara next season. She has also played for former club world champions and last year's European Champions League bronze medallists Rabita Baku.
Puerto Rico’s women’s team have also made a habit of producing some shock results. At the 2002 FIVB Women’s World Championship, they finished as high as ninth place. They were 15th in 2006 and 17th in 2010 and 2014. Their qualification for the Group 2 finals in the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix this year is proof that the team is on the up again. They also won medals at last year’s Central American and Caribbean Games (silver) and at the Pan American Cup (bronze). The team finished a thankless fourth, however, at the Pan American Games in Toronto this July.
The hope is that the Women's U20 World Championship in Puerto Rico will encourage even more of the country's youngsters to take up volleyball - and many are already looking ahead to the event. “The different groups look very competitive and challenging. We are looking forward to having a great World Championship and I wish the best of luck to the 16 national teams taking part,” commented Cristobal Marte Hoffiz, First Executive Vice-President of FIVB and President of the NORCECA Confederation.
Hosts Puerto Rico will compete in Pool A along with teams from Russia, Bulgaria and Cuba, while reigning champions China will play in Pool B with teams from Serbia, Peru and Mexico. Pool C consists of sides from Japan, Italy, Chinese Taipei and Egypt and Pool D includes Brazil, Turkey, the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic.