Girls' U19 World Championship 2023 - News.

Ariana Rodriguez in the match of her Dominican Republic against Puerto Rico

A great rivarly and Carribean dances at the end of the game is what the spectators at the Osijek sports hall witnessed when Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico locked horns in their group match at the Girls’ U19 World Championship. One of the leaders on the court for the Dominican team - Ariana Rodriguez, celebrated passionately with her teammates, not hiding her happiness. Playing as an outside hitter and finishing with 20 points to her name (22.92% efficiency), Ariana, whose “usual” role on the court is a setter, proved once again she is the complete player many coaches are looking for. 

The tournament is being streamed live on the Volleyball World YouTube channel.

“It was definitely an intense match, but the key to the first success at the Championship was the aggressiveness on the court. We had to definitely keep on finding our spots since they were serving us hard. Our strength for this game was our offense together with the serving.” 

Winning against Puerto Rico, a team that the Domincan young ladies have been going forth and back with, inspired Rodriguez and she revealed herself as the leader she is. Being surrounded by volleyball players her whole life, the fighting spirit is just a natural part of Ariana’s character.

Girls' U19: Dominican Republic 3-1 Puerto Rico 

“My parents were professionals, they also played for the national team. My dad played professionally in Switzerland for about seven years and my mum was a setter for the national team as well. That’s I am going for. Being a setter of the national team,” Rodriguez says with sparkling eyes. 

Inspired by father Elvis Rodriguez and mother Suquin Fung, Ariana sets high goals ahead. Chosing to focus on the setter role, Rodriguez knows this is how she can help best her team.

“Being a setter is definitely not an easy position, but I think it’s best for me and for my future, because I am not that tall. I have another weapon as well - if I want to attack on the second ball, I am a leftie. I love setting! I prefer it.”

Her family is her greatest support on the volleyball journey she has embarked on. Her parents have travelled with her to Mexico, two years ago, where the Girls U18 World Championship took place. Furthermore, her little sister is also a volleyball player(a libero), and volleyball is the main topic in many cases. 

“I was travelling with my parents all around the world, I have been surrounedd by volleyball people, my parents, their friends, and I don’t remember my life without any volleyball.”

Dominican Republic celebrations

Dominican Republic celebrations

Rodriguez was called up for the senior national team and will be part of the squad for the Pre-olympic qualifier that will take place later this year in China. 

“The experience with the senior national team is something very recent. They invited me to this Pre-olympic qualifier. I know that it is going to be hard, because I am going to be in college but I promised to my professors that when come back, I will get everything done. These are once in a lifetime experiences, and I don’t want to lose them. If we qualified, I can be the first from my school to qualify for Olympics, at just 18 years old.”

Well-aware of the difficulties that might arise ahead, Ariana is mostly grateful for this opportunity. 

“They see the potential in me and I am so excited to go to China. I am 1/ 4 Chinese, that’s where my mum parents’ come from, so this can be a bit going back to the roots.”

It is not always easy to combine professional sports career with studies, and the Dominican knows it well. However, she is determined to succeed in both.

Rodriguez spiking at the Girls' U19

Rodriguez spiking at the Girls' U19

“I have missed a lot of school actually, but my parents have always taught me that value, education and sports can go hand in hand, so I am just naturally a hard-worker in both. I feel like that if I am not succeeding in the classroom that’s not me. I want to be an athlete, but excellent both on the court and in the classroom.”

Additionally, sometimes, volleyball is the perfect way for Rodriguez “to switch off”.

“I use volleyball as my therapy and it keeps me calm. It helps me for my mental health.”

The next challenge that Ariana will be facing,is going to the University of Miami, where she will develop as a setter. 

“I am actually not playing in my first year. I am trying to get stronger and build a connection with the team before I start setting for them full time. But I still be part of the team.”

Rodriguez sees the Miami experience, where she will be for five years, as an important step towards accomplishing a big dream of hers.

“I want to play professionally in Türkiye. Maybe with Melissa Vargas? Oh, and my favourite team? Definitely Fenerbahce!”, Ariana concludes.

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FIVB Volleyball Girls' U19 World Championship
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