by Thomas Hoffman
KANSAS CITY, MO – The Triple Crown Volleyball NIT continues to bring together the best clubs from around the nation and now, U.S. territories.
Capitanas Arecibo Xtreme 14u from Puerto Rico didn’t arrive in Kansas City to play a couple of volleyball matches and enjoy the city. Coach Carlos Alvarez’s girls came to prove a point, and with their recent 2-0 (25-23, 25-23) victory over the No. 1 seeded WAVE Juliana, they might’ve done just that.
“I don’t know if we’re the best team here,” said Alvarez. “But I do know that we’re going to work the hardest, and that’s what we did today.”
Capitanas’ energy was noticeable from the get-go. Racing out to an early 10-5 lead, the Xtreme took command of the opening set. Point after point, Alvarez’s team chased down balls and never let a possession go to waste. Behind it all was setter and captain Dariana Valencia.
“I am so proud to represent Puerto Rico here at this tournament,” Valencia explained. “It gives me pride and energy every time we step and the floor. I want to show everyone what we can do.”
Frequently, it was Karolina Rodriguez on the receiving end of Valencia’s perfect sets. Rodriguez notched five kills in the opening frame and nine total throughout the contest.
WAVE Juliana earned the No. 1 seed for a reason, though. Dropping only one set on Saturday, WAVE were determined to prevent one from slipping away on Monday afternoon.
Two separate runs of three points in a row brought WAVE back to within one, 24-23, before Rodriguez dealt the decisive blow for Capitanas.
“We felt them coming back and they were beginning to have momentum,” Valencia said. “We just concentrate on getting the next point and that was it.”
Set number two opened with an impossibly long rally, one that stretched nearly a minute in length. With twists, turns, dives, spikes and blocks, it disappointingly came to an abrupt end with a WAVE attacking error.
Fifty-fifty points became the running theme throughout the set, with WAVE more often than not failing to capitalize on a moment or two. Meanwhile, Valencia and Capitanas’ unrelenting attitude led to another sizeable lead.
Once more though, WAVE bounced back. With its backs to the wall, 20-14, WAVE furiously mounted a charge to bring the set within one for the second time, 24-23. Fittingly, one more attack error from WAVE ended another exhausting point, this time officially handing the match win to Capitanas.
“We prepare for this,” Alvarez said. “We work all year to play in this tournament. I am so happy to see the team perform like this”
Capitanas’ hard work vaulted them into Monday morning’s semifinals where they’ll face A5 Mizuno 14-Helen. Two more wins and Alvarez can send his players and their families home with the prize they've desired.
“It’s all about the team,” Valencia said. “We prepare as a team, we concentrate as a team and we just need to play the game we know.”