Puerto Rico will compete in volleyball for the first time ever in the Olympic Games after its women’s team captured a straight-set 3-0 (25-8, 25-23, 25-15) victory over Kenya on Sunday evening in front of a partisan crowd at Roberto Clemente Coliseum of San Juan.
The victory earned Puerto Rico the last ticket available to the 12-team Olympic tournament joining hosts Brazil, China, Serbia, Russia, Argentina, United States, Cameroon, Japan, Italy, Netherlands and South Korea while Kenya, who last appeared at the Olympics in Athens in 2004, miss out.
The wild celebration began even before the first whistle with the fans chanting and dancing in the stands to the beat of Latin rhythms. And when the match started they roared and cheered for every point until the conclusion of the actions.
Karina Ocasio was the lone Puerto Rican in the well distributed offense with 15 points. Yarimar Rosa, Stephanie Enright and Lynda Morales each contributed 7 points.
Kenya’s Noel Murambi finished with 12 points in the losing effort while Everlyne Makuto and Bracksides Khadambi added 9 and 8 points, respectively.
The strong and well located serves and tight defense at the net carried Puerto Rico in a lopsided first set where the Kenyan girls seemed out of sync. The local team led 8-2 and 16-5 at the technical time-outs relying on the attack and defense of middle blockers Morales and Oquendo. The set closed 25-8 with a right-wing cross-court by Ocasio who finished with 5 points.
The Kenyans looked more relaxed in the second set when Murambi broke a tied score at 7-all with a big spike but Puerto Rico came back to take the lead 16-13. Kenya recovered to claim back the one-point lead 17-16 behind a kill by Everlyne Makuto. At 23-all Kenya made a defensive mistake and Cruz finished the set 25-23 with her spike from the back court.
Puerto Rico took an 8-6 lead in the third against a relentless Kenya inspired by the veteran Khadambi and with the attacks from E. Makuto.. Finally Puerto Rico took command of the score 16-10. Rosa gave enough comfort with spike and ace for 18-12 and the fans were roaring. Daly Santana sealed the triumph with a bomb from the back court for a 25-15 and the ticket to Rio.
Kenya finished third in the four-nation repechage tournament, losing to Puerto Rico and Colombia and beating continental rivals Algeria who finished last. (FIVB)
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