Little Brenda Castillo (5) is the inspirational leader of the Dominican Republic's team
Milan, Italy, October 7, 2014 – The Final Six of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 is somehow a recreation of Gulliver’s first travel in the famous novel written by Jonathan Swift in the eighteenth century.
The Dominican Republic, a tiny country in the middle of the Caribbean Sea with a population of roughly 10 million people living in 48,442 square kilometers, represents Lilliput while China, Russia, United States, Brazil and Italy are the giants of the story.
While the Dominican Republic has been able to accomplish the outstanding and unexpected feat of qualifying among the top six women’s volleyball teams of the world event, there is no comparison possible when you go to other more typical scenarios like geographical size or demographics projections not to mention other more sophisticated areas like gross domestic product.
China, with around 1,350 million, is the most populated country on the face of the earth, while Russia is the largest nation of the planet with a surface of 17, 075, 400 square kilometers. And Italy, the smaller of the Big Five, is six times bigger in both area and population than the country represented by “The Queens of the Caribbean."
“We don’t feel like intruders going beyond the limits and trespassing forbidden land,” Cristobal Marte Hoffiz, president of the women’s program of the Dominican Republic Volleyball Federation and FIVB First Executive Vice President, said. “On the contrary, we are proud of accomplishing a feat and showing people all over the world that goals can be achieved with hard work and dedication.”
“We believe in opportunity and development and here we are, replaying the stories of Gulliver’s Travels or maybe the battle of David against Goliath,” Marte Hoffiz added. “The Dominicans have downed some big countries on their route to the Final Six.”
The Dominican Republic enters the third round with a 7-2 win-loss record with both losses in five-sets and four of their victories also playing full sets.
“It is like written in the history that we have to play five sets,” commented Brazilian Marcos Kwiek who has coached the Dominican team since late 2008. “I don’t know how far we are going to go but we continue to play each match like it is the finale.”
The Dominican Republic plays China on Thursday and Brazil on Friday in Pool H with the top two teams advancing to the semifinal round.
"The main strength of my team is their excellent team spirit," Kwiek said. "The girls are more experienced now and know how to deal with difficult situations. I feel a strong energy."
In major competitions of FIVB, the Dominican Republic has scored only one victory over China when won a five-set battle in Macau during the preliminary round of the 2010 World Grand Prix. They have never defeated Brazil in FIVB but have prevailed against the South American giants in Pan American competitions.
“We have shown people there are not impossible tasks so we will be out to battle no matter who or what,” Kwiek said. “We are here, so it shows that we belong here with the rest of the company.”
Niverka Dharlenis Marte Frica, the team's starting setter, said her country's preparation prior to the tournament and getting a good start in Italy provided conference during the long two weeks of nine matches.
"We are very happy and proud to play here in Milano," Marte Frica said. "One of the main reasons for our success here in Italy might be the excellent preparation we had before the tournament. We spent 20 days in Slovenia where we played against Serbia, Canada and Volero Zurich. It was very important for us, as we felt ready when arriving in Italy. Our win versus Germany on the first competition day helped us a lot as well. It gave as the confidence we needed for the rest of the tournament. However, we are still looking going further in this competition. We know we might not be the favorites but we are not afraid of any opponent. We know about our strength and power. We want more. We can count on a very balanced team and a great team spirit. In some other events, we had one key player – here it is the whole team what makes the difference."
That’s like saying that once again David will be out against the giant armed only with a slinger.