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Matadorcitas in action this weekend in Lima

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Just in case you were unaware, Peruvians are mad about women’s volleyball. Besides the men´s national soccer team, no other squad embodies this country’s passion for sport better than the “Matadorcitas,” the women’s youth national team that captured the nation’s attention and affection by winning the under-18 South American Junior Volleyball Championships last year and the under-20 Pan-American Volleyball Cup in 2011.

I had a chance to meet the coach of the “Little Killers”, Natalia Malaga, and some of the players earlier this week at Plaza Norte, where hundreds of eager fans rallied behind the team at their press conference to launch the 4th Copa Unique, which will be played at Coliseo Eduardo Dibós in San Borja beginning tonight at 7 p.m.

Copa Unique will be the last tournament the “Matadorcitas” will participate in before heading to the Women’s Junior Volleyball World Championships in the Czech Republic in June, and then the Girl’s Youth World Championships in Thailand this August.

“Thank you to all of the people who came to support us this afternoon and I hope all of you will join us at the coliseum this Thursday,” Malaga said. “The girls and I promise to give it our all and to strive to be among the best teams in the world.”

/ The Matadorcitas at the press conference at Plaza Norte this Tuesday. (photo: El Comercio)

After tasting success last year at the South American championship, the Peruvian volleyball team was recently rattled at the Copa Latina when the girls finished in last place, after losing to Mexico and Dominican Republic on their home court two weekends ago.

The losses came as two of their key players were out due to injury.

“We want the team to be complete, but right now we’re unsure about Mayilaura Frias and Rosa Valiente, who both recently had surgeries to correct stress fractures,” Malaga said. “That’s why we’ve had some girls from the second team step up to get ready for the world championship run.”

The girls on the under-18 team are excited for this last home match before embarking on the biggest test of their sporting careers.

“This tournament will help us improve as we prepare for the upcoming world championships,” Angela Leyva, 17, the team’s captain said. “We’ve evolved a lot since we were last named champions, but we still have a long way to go.”

Leyva knows a thing or two about getting results. The five foot 11 inch spiker who was born Lima, has been playing for the youth national team since she was 14. Under her leadership the girls won their first gold in 19 years.

“I think we will be better,” she said. “We’ve been training very hard and putting in a lot of effort. Our goal is to be the best on the court.”

Cristiana Cuba, one of the stars from the South American Championships, says that this weekend’s tournament will test their resolve in the face of adversity.

“Copa Unique is going to be a way for us to match ourselves against some other international teams that will also participate in the world cup,” she said. “It´s going to help us see where we stand compared to them, especially with some of the injuries we’ve suffered recently.”

The tournament is the last chance to see the “Matadorcitas” before they leave for Europe and Asia to take on the world.

Copa Unique will feature the youth national teams from Slovenia, Dominican Republic and Thailand. It will be the first time that the teams from Asia and Europe will play in Peru.

Tickets for the tournament are on sale at Wong and Metro. Plus you can buy tickets at the door at Coliseo Eduardo Dibós at the intersection of Avenida Aviacion and Avenida Angamos in San Borja for S/. 10 or S/. 20.

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Taking a photo alongside the team from Thailand. (photo: El Comercio)

Peru loves their girl’s volleyball team. This week the girls play their last match in Lima before heading to Europe and Asia to compete in the World Championships.

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