Powerful Cubans join Americans in semis

ADAM WAZNY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

There's some question as to which the dominant country is at the NORCECA Women's Continental Championship.

The United States would garner a lot of votes, but if you ask the local side for their choice, Cuba will be at the top of their list.

"Even if you just look at the roster on paper," Team Canada left side hitter Tammy Mahon said yesterday. "They have height across the board, they have strength and they jump well. So volleyball skills aside, they're one of the top teams in the world just based on physique.

"On the court, they run a 6-2 system, which means that there are always three hitters in the front row, no matter what the situation. That's always a bit of an adjustment, because it's very different from what most teams run. They have their weaknesses, for sure, but they're strengths are very, very strong and that's makes it difficult."

Mahon and the Canadians dropped a 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-10) decision to the Cubans at the Investors Group Athletic Centre last night, finishing the round robin portion of the tournament with a 2-1 record.

The Canucks will face Mexico in one quarter-final game tonight (8 p.m.). The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico meet in the other quarter-final (6 p.m.).

On the strength of first place finishes in group play, fifth-ranked Cuba and the seventh-ranked U.S. (in FIVB world rankings) await the winners of those games tomorrow.

VOCAL MEMBER: One of the loudest supporters in the crowd during the United States-Dominican Republic match yesterday was NORCECA president Cristobal Marte Hoffiz.

El presidente sat front row on the spectator side, directly across from the Dominican bench, shouting support (and the occasional instruction) at the court during the action and during the time-outs.

Not only was he the most vocal of the 200 in attendance yesterday, he was also the most mobile, switching his vantage point as the teams changed sides after each set.

There's a reason for his passion. Marte Hoffiz is the man responsible for the Dominican rise to prominence in the NORCECA group. A wealthy man thanks to his chicken farm business, he put up the dough to fund most of the D.R. program.


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