Cuba's Melissa Vargas played like a seasoned player at age 14, to capture MVP honours at the NORCECA qualification tournament for the FIVB Volleyball World Championship
Havana, Cuba, May 21, 2014 - Melissa Vargas looked almost a little sheepish as she was photographed with her MVP award but the 14-year-old volleyball phenom was instrumental in the Cuban team’s 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-13) victory over Trinidad and Tobago at the NORCECA qualification tournament for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship.
Vargas was a key player for Cuba, together with team-mate Jennifer Alvarez, who spearheaded the Cuban attack plot. Vargas was also named Best Opposite Spiker and Best Outside Hitter – a feat that is not typically achieved by a regular 14-year-old player. Indeed, Vargas is not a typical player, but rather a player distinctly reminiscent of the luminaries of “Las Morenas del Caribe”.
“Las Morenas del Caribe” is the famous generation of Cuban players who seized Olympic medals in Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, as well as World Championship titles in 1978, 1994 and 1998.
Vargas’ entry into the senior team and her phenomenal performance sparked new hope to the Cuban team. Her coach Juan Carlos Gala praised her performance in the final that led to Cuba’s qualification in the World Championship – their twelfth consecutive appearance in the quadrennial event.
“Melissa was sharp with her serves,” said coach Gala. “The girls fulfilled their goals and now we are going to Italy.”
Cuba is likely to play in World Championship Group D, along with Japan, China, Belgium, Azerbaijan and another team still to be determined from the NORCECA qualification. A complex group, but the new “Morenas del Caribe”, along with their 14-year-old star, are out to prove that they will be a force to be reckoned with again in the future.
“We worked very hard to achieve this goal of winning the competition without losing a single set,” elated Cuba captain Rosanna Giel added. “Now we are going to work our socks off to do a good job in the World Championship.”
Several players from the original “Morenas del Caribe” were in attendance at the awarding ceremony. Regla Torres, who was voted Best Female Player of the 20th Century by the FIVB in 2001, and her team-mates Mireya Luis and Yumilka Ruiz – all remain as household names to millions of volleyball fans around the world – were there to witness Vargas go up the podium and receive various best player honours.
These powerful Cuban ladies dominated the volleyball scene for decades, but little of the glamour of the yesteryear remains. There are, however, signs of an upward trend for Cuban volleyball. The sport is still widely popular in the country and its people have someone new to look up to, as Vargas thrives to achieve greater heights for her team.