by Charles Gladden
BELIZE CITY, Tues. July 12, 2022
On Tuesday, July 12, the first day of the 19th Central American U21 Women’s Volleyball Championship tournament at the Belize Civic Center, Belize’s U21 women’s volleyball team triumphed over Nicaragua in three sets, 25-15, 25-19, and 25-23—a much savored victory for a nation that has grown too accustomed to losses in the sports arena.
Five Central American countries—Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua— are participating in the five-day regional tournament, which is being hosted by Belize under the umbrella of the Central American Volleyball Federation and which ends on Saturday, July 16. Panama had declined to participate in the games, while Costa Rica withdrew moments before the tournament began.
The Cuban head coach of the U21 Belize women’s volleyball team, Jose Fontes, told AMANDALA in Spanish how he felt about coaching a Belize team.
His remarks, when translated, are as follows: “I am proud. It’s a big opportunity for me to represent Belize, and I want to achieve a great result… I think Belize has a big attitude toward sports, specifically volleyball. The players have [the] potential for jumping, and if the coaches are making them better, Belize can have a lot of possibilities for international results.”
Prior to the start of the first game on Tuesday night, Fontes told us that he believed that the girls would be ready for their first game, as they had performed well during the past two weeks of training.
His words proved to be prophetic, as the Belize team started off their first two sets strong and with confidence, overpowering the Nicaraguan women. However, in the third set, they faltered somewhat, and the Nicaraguan women’s team secured a lead at the beginning of that final set.
The players on Belize’s women’s volleyball team were able to regain their momentum, however, and they won the final set.
In summarizing what took place, Fontes told AMANDALA, “…We warmed up really well. We played a very good first set with very effective serving. We had a reaction from Nicaragua in the second set, but we continued tacking, and we beat them. In the third set, our team missed a lot of serving, and we were losing in the third set. But after that, the team came up and beat Nicaragua in the last couple of serves. I am content with the results.”
The captain of Belize’s U21 women’s volleyball team, Sofia Solano, remarked, “Of course, we want to close off with the minimum sets possible, because we end up gaining more points if we win in [fewer] sets. So at that time, I was thinking ‘Come on, guys; we have to finish this one set’ and everybody wants to just be done and everyone just wants to finish it off. And of course, naturally, everybody with those last couple of points that won the game, we were all ecstatic—like we had that energy flowing through us, and I think victory really gave us some motivation to play harder even [Thursday] and the days following for the rest of this tournament.”
Solano further expressed appreciation for the support of Belizean fans who were present at Tuesday’s game.
“It makes a huge difference to see the fans there, you know. Having that physical support and hearing the fans cheering for you, especially for when you’re in those difficult moments, it really gives you that push,” she said.
On Thursday, Belize will face off against El Salvador.
In regard to that upcoming game, Solano commented, “When we arrived at the gym, we sat and watched the game between Honduras and El Salvador. We all have an idea how they play [and] how much endurance they have, and I think our goal for at that game is to especially focus on our endurance and making sure we close off each set by a lot of points and to let it spill away from us.”