FAYETTEVILLE – Razorback head volleyball coach Robert Pulliza completed a successful trip to Guatemala last week with the Puerto Rico Youth National Team at the 2010 NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship. Serving as an assistant coach, Pulliza helped guide Puerto Rico to a bronze-medal finish, which insured a trip to the 2011 FIVB Youth World Championship in Turkey.
"Anytime you have the opportunity to represent your country, it’s an honor, especially when you get to hear the anthem during the medal ceremony," Pulliza said. "I am thrilled that (Puerto Rico) has qualified for the World Championships. I am looking forward to seeing what this team will do at the World Championships in Turkey. It was also exciting to compete and watch a great USA team and to see them win gold to qualify for the Youth Olympics and the World Championships."
Puerto Rico opened the tournament with a straight-sets win over El Salvador, 25-8, 25-11, 25-12. The team continued to play strong with a 25-19, 25-16, 25-11 victory over host Guatemala. Puerto Rico finished pool play undefeated to advance to bracket play.
In the quarterfinal round, Puerto Rico dropped its first set for the tournament, but rallied for a 3-1 win over Costa Rica, 23-25, 25-29, 25-29, 25-16. The win sent the Puerto Rico squad into the semifinals against the tough United States team. Puerto Rico lost that match to the United States, the eventual tournament champion. The team responded, however, to defeat the Dominican Republic in the bronze-medal match, 25-20, 25-16, 25-21.
In addition to Pulliza, the Puerto Rican team was led by head coach Eric Gonzalez. Captain Daly Santana paced the team with 19 points while Lucia Castro and Pilar Victoria tallied 13 and 12 points, respectively. Puerto Rico will join the United States and runner-up Mexico at the Youth World Championship next year. As the winning team, the United States also earned an invitation to the 2010 Youth Olympic Games to be held in August in Singapore.