Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2022. 2:54 pm CST.
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Team Belize gained the silver medal at U-21 Central American Volleyball Championship, falling to Guatemala in five sets on Saturday at the Belize City Civic Center but knowing they were so close to the gold, the team is disappointed though satisfied with the effort.
For them getting five individual awards is no consolation.
“I’m extremely proud of the team for the performance put out there for this U-21 tournament and of course we are all disappointed that we did not get the gold, but we have to understand that the disappointment is because of the superiority of the game that they played prior to that made us want or expect more,” said Assistant Coach Lupita Quan who has been the driving force behind the development of women’s volleyball in Belize.
“But nonetheless, I am grateful to the players for the effort. I am proud of them for the valiance they showed and the courage that they displayed in playing in front of such a huge crowd.”
But while Quan is disappointed, Fatoumata Camara, better known as Fatima Ramirez and who was named best attacker and best receiver, is disheartened. She says it was a missed opportunity.
“Personally, I’m not satisfied with the silver medal,” Ramirez said.
“I think overall the team performed really well and I think that we had it in the last game, but we struggled, especially me. I struggled and I’m very disappointed and I’m not satisfied with a silver medal because Belize has gotten silver so many times and this tournament was for us. We were supposed to get the gold. That’s all I wanted, gold or nothing. Gold or nothing. So, I’m very disappointed and I’m not satisfied with the silver medal, but I’m still very proud of the team and our overall performance,” said Ramirez.
Quan said the team’s faltering came at a bad moment.
“We don’t want to have settled for the silver, but you know sometimes in sports teams will struggle and we’re just not fortunate that that day we struggled was the gold medal match, but it is a part of sports that teams will struggle from time to time. So, we need to understand that, for our players and our teams. But I still am very proud of the team’s work,” she said.
Belize Volleyball Association (BVA) President Allan Sharp said that while we were all hoping for the gold medal, the team gave a gallant fight and made Belize proud.
“Obviously, we were hoping for gold. This is our fourth silver medal over the past recent years, but we believe the girls gave it their all,” said Sharp.
“We saw a great fight. Guatemala came very ready and prepared. Guatemala has been playing in high level international tournaments prior to coming to this tournament so they had a bit more practice matches or a bit more experience in playing under heavy stress. We believe the performance was very good.”
Cuban head coach José Fontes, who has been at the helm of Belizean teams since 2019, said our team did well considering that 60 percent of the players were Under 19 players competing in the U-21 category.
“[Belize had] a very young team with many tall players and a great technical level. Our main objective was to improve on the fifth place we gained in 2019 in Honduras, but the team prepared itself with a lot of enthusiasm and the girls came out with a highly competitive level to the point that up to the last game the team never lost a set and we played for gold against Guatemala, a team that has much more experience. They were the category’s subchampions of the 2019 edition. And the game went to five sets, very competitive. We lost but the girls played with great dignity and decorum,” said Fontes.
Despite the consistency Belize has shown over the last few years, Ramirez insisted that it was a missed opportunity to gain gold at home.
“Belize has never gotten a gold medal in volleyball. Never. So, we would have made history if we’ve got the gold medal and we almost had it,” she said.
“I feel like it was once in a lifetime that we would have gotten the opportunity to get gold in our home country. Yes, we could get gold in Honduras, Guatemala, or any other Central American country that we go to for tournaments, but Belize only hosts once in a while. It took 5 years for us to host again, so I feel like it was a once in a lifetime thing for us to get gold in our home country. We can get gold in Honduras or gold in Costa Rica, but it will never be the same.”
And while Ramirez was distraught, coach Fontes said we have to feel proud of the achievement.
“When we reach this level, as a coach we always want more. We believed we could get the gold medal, but we lost it in very little time,” he said.
“We had shown a highly competitive level throughout the tournament but now after a couple days we have to feel satisfied and proud of the work the majority of these girls gave.”
Assistant coach Quan said she was very satisfied with the support the Belizean fans gave the team.
“I’m also proud of the Belizean public for the support that they showed the team you know in their presence and watching it on stream. All the support helped to rally the players more as the tournament progressed.”
President Sharp echoed those words.
“We only have positive comments coming from everybody with the effort that the girls have put out. We see it that way. We know that we are going to grow. We know we’re going to get better,” Sharp said.
“The crowd was excellent. We had excellent support from the Belizean public especially on the final night. We think that it was well organized, well put together. The international officials that came were very satisfied. We held a world class event and we finished off with a match that was befitting of a championship where the two teams are battling to the very end. Unfortunately, we did not win the gold, but I think everybody saw how well the girls fought and how much we can do if we get more support and more investment in the sport.”
The president doesn’t lose hope.
“We are super proud of what we did, and we know that we’re right on the cusp of winning gold,” Sharp said.
Another opportunity is coming up very soon as the U-23 Women’s National Team will be competing in the 5th U-23 Central American Championship in Tegucigalpa from July 26 to August 3.
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