OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Team captain, Sulian Matienzo, along with Jennifer Álvarez and Melissa Vargas, are keys to Cuba’s defense. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

The five volleyball players who recently competed in international leagues will be vital to the Cuban selection looking toward the sport's Grand Prix (GP), scheduled to begin June 3. Speaking to Granma International Roberto García the team’s technical coach, stated that his players are feeling motivated after a successful experience abroad with numerous opportunities to play. Melissa Vargas (opposite hitter) and Sulian Matienzo (team captain and setter) played in 42 matches in the Czech Republic, while Jennifer Álvarez, Regla Gracia and Daymara Lescay — all setters — participated in 36 games each.

Melissa is the driving force behind top Czech team Prostejov’s offense, scoring an average of between 15 and 18 points per game. Meanwhile coach García notes that Matienzo should be able to reach an average of 14 or more points a day, during the GP.

In regards to these top five players, he noted that all reached an average of nine points per game the previous season, but have the potential to increase that figure to 12. In this regard, he highlighted, Alena Rojas, Daymara Lescay and Heidy Casanova, with Lescay securing 12 points as a wing (outside hitter or receiver) in a single game during her stint in Peru.
The three will debut against Croatia in the GP being held in Australia, June 3. A strong rival, Cuba is set to face Croatia again in the second week of knock out competitions, explained the Cuban coach. We will only have a chance of success if we give it 100%, nor should we feel completely confident against Colombia, a team that has shown a great deal of improvement, and features two players who have performed outstandingly in Russian and Italian leagues, scoring a combined average of between 45 to 50 points per match, stated García.

He added that the Cuban squad is currently perfecting their plays with visible improvements in their defense, thanks to a careful study of their rival’s game play, as well as work blocking close to the net, and movement around the court.

Over the next two weekends the players’ training schedule will change. in order to prepare for the different conditions they will encounter in Australia.

VENEZUELA IN HAVANA

Italian Vincenzo Nacci, an experienced trainer from the country’s A-2 Super League, arrived in Havana, leading Venezuela’s men’s team, to perfect details of the squad’s play looking toward the last Olympic qualifying tournament, to be held in Japan beginning May 28, which will award four places to Rio 2016.

Nacci coaches young 19 and 20 year old players, some of whom, like setter Fernando González, are currently playing in the Bulgarian, Slovakian and Lebanese leagues. “I’ve come to fine tune passing and attacking with the Cuban squad – a young and promising team - in several games through May 20,” he stated.
The visitor criticized the Rio Olympics qualification system, stating that Venezuela lost 2-3 against Argentina in the pre-Olympic in Caracas, and as runners up must compete in Japan facing teams including Poland (World Champion), France (World League 2015 Champion), Canada (eliminated by Cuba in Edmonton), Iran, Australia, China and the hosts. One of the qualifying spots will go to an Asian team while all remaining competitors must battle it out for the other three places.

What Nacci considers unfair is the fact that some teams which came in third in their respective pre-Olympic competitions subsequently participated in a much easier qualifier as compared the Japan tournament.