Outspoken Peru coach Mauro Marasciulo hit back at critics after his team took a big step forward with a 3-0 (30-28, 25-22, 25-22) victory over Colombia in the third round of the South American women’s Olympic qualifier in Argentina.
Marasciulo, who on Thursday declared hosts Argentina lack the power to qualify for Rio, couldn’t resist the temptation to take a swipe at members of the Peruvian media after Friday’s vital victory.
“The real Peruvians support this squad,” he said.
“Those who are here are the ones who wanted to be, with a few exceptions for injuries. Most of those critics are not Peruvians in my opinion.”
The coach singled out two of his players for special praise after the win.
“We have dealt with a lot of criticism from the press and a few other people in Peru,” Marasciulo said.
“Players like Alexandra Muñoz (setter) and Mirtha Uribe (middle blocker) have been heavily criticized, and I am so happy for them tonight because they played great.”
“Muñoz made a great distribution in such an important match, while Uribe, who is 30 but plays with the passion of a young girl, helped the team to control their nerves.
“She feels a lot of pain, but never refused to play for the national team.”
Does he feel like the qualifier champion now? After all, he had said Peru and Colombia would decide the ticket owner. Marasciulo smiled and said he will wait: “We got to think about Venezuela. We will play them before clashing with Argentina.:
The Peruvians play Venezuela on Saturday, while the Colombians face a highly motivated home team. It is going to be Colombia’s last shot. Eliminated Chile has a rest day.
It was expected to be a balanced match, but Peru was more consistent in the crucial moments, playing better the end of each set. Wing spiker Angela Leyva led the Peruvians with 20 points (16 in attack, three aces and one block). The setter Alexandra Muñoz stood out with an efficient distribution.
Colombian hammer Madelaynne Montaño scored impressive 31 points (30 in attack and one block) – a mark that would be great even for a five-setter. Although the Colombian opposite was the top scorer of the match, her efforts were not enough for a squad that seemed more dependent on her than ever.
Montaño had 30 successful spikes in 56 attempts, 53,6% efficiency. The second most set player on her team was wing spiker Amanda Coneo, who tried 20 times, a little more than one third of the opposite’s total. To make things worse, Coneo scored only five points in attack, just 25% efficient.
Mirtha Uribe told Volleyverse she expected a tough game.
“We have managed to neutralize Montaño in the most important moments,” she said.
“We knew in advance she would score a lot, but we had to remain focused and play our game. Apart from that, our service was a key element.”
Regarding the criticism she has been under, the slim middle blocker remarked: “What does not kill you makes you stronger.”
Peru’s Leyva had 39 percent efficiency, scoring 16 points in attack out of 41 attempts.
Montaño was devastated, her 31 points did not matter to her as her team had lost.
“We made too many mistakes, I made some when I could not. In the first set, we missed two serves in a row when the game was tied. In the second, I hit a ball out of bounds giving Peru their 22nd point. We gave them too many chances and they took advantage of that.”
Anyway, the 33-year-old opposite still thinks about leaving Bariloche with a berth secured for Rio 2016.
“Being at the Olympics have always been a dream to me. I will not give up,” she said.
“We play Argentina this Saturday and I’ll put my heart on the court to leave with a victory.”
Road to Rio
Second and third places will get another chance to qualify later in May. Oddly, the third placed will have more chances to be in Rio than the second. The latter will play a world qualifier, including two strong European teams, one from Norceca (North, Central American and Caribbean Confederation), plus four Asian teams. Four berths will be given, one for the best Asian and three among the rest. Sounds like mission impossible to any South American squad playing this week in Bariloche.
Meanwhile, third place in the South American qualifier will face third from Norceca, and second and third from Africa. This way, the third team from this qualifier in Bariloche gets a better chance to be in Rio than the second placed.
Wednesday, January 6
Colombia 3-2 Venezuela (25-14, 15-25, 21-25, 25-17, 17-15)
Argentina 3-0 Chile (25-10, 25-15, 25-14)
Friday, January 8
Venezuela 3-0 Chile (25-22, 25-13, 25-9)
Peru 3-0 Colombia (30-28, 25-22, 25-22)