European-based quartet Kelly-Anne Billingy, captain Krystle Esdelle, Channon Thompson and Sinea Jack all scored in double figures as this country’s senior women volleyballers stunned host Mexico in four sets to open its campaign at the 11th Women’s Pan American Cup. Playing in the final match of the day’s opening schedule, T&T, ranked 34th in the world, humbled Mexico, ranked 27th, 27–25, 25–20, 17–25, 25–19 in their Group B contest at the Colegio de Bachilleres Gymnasium, Tijuana. France-based Billingy and Germany-based Esdelle led with 17 and 16 points respectively while the Poland-based pair of teenagers Thompson and Jack each added ten in the win in one hour and 41 minutes.
For Mexico’s Alejandra Isiordia had a match-high 27 points and Olivia Meza charted 16. Speaking after the match in which T&T held a 15–7 advantage in blocks and also had a 5–3 margin in the aces category, Esdelle said, “My team came together tonight ready to battle. Mexico are a team that always come to play hard but today (Thursday) we executed as planned.”
Mexico captain Karla Sainz noted it a long competition and it was only the first match for her team as they hope to play better in their next matches.” An elated T&T coach, Cuban-born Francisco Cruz while happy for the win said, “Mexico defends very well and we made many errors but we played more consistent and the players kept the focus with the exception of the third set,”, “T&T showed their power and the high blocking,” Mexico’s coach Etanislao Vachino said. “They are one of the tallest team and we couldn’t place our serves the way we wanted.” The win for T&T over Mexico was the first in three recent meetings after the Central Americans won both matches at the Continental Olympic Qualifiers held in Tijuana in May 25–14, 25–19, 25–23 in the group stage and 25–13, 25–16, 26-24 in the fifth to eighth playoff semifinals.
However, back then St John’s University graduate Darlene Ramdin, Jack, Thompson (AZS Bialystock) and Billingy (Nantes SC) were all absent from the T&T team due to different reasons and will be out for revenge tonight. Also in Group B, reigning champion and three-time winner Brazil, the second ranked team in the world, crushed 28th ranked Costa Rica 25–9, 25–15, 25–11 while Peru (#17) won its South American duel with Argentina (#18) 14–25, 25–21, 25–21, 25–23.
T&T was expected to play Argentina yesterday while it faces Brazil today from 8 pm followed by Costa Rica (Sunday) and Peru, a day later, before the playoffs serves off. On Thursday in Pool A matches at the Universidad Autónoma Gymnasium, two-time champion and 11th ranked Dominican Republic crushed 26th ranked Colombia 25–13, 25–18, 25–11, world top-ranked USA, which won in 2003, made light work of Canada (#22) 25–15, 25–22, 25–15 and four-time winner Cuba (#10) overcame its late arrival for the tournament with an 16–25, 25–15, 25–18, 25–19 defeat of Puerto Rico (#19).
This year marks the sixth straight appearance at the tournament for the local women’s team which has finished tenth three times (2009-2011) and 12th, both in 2007 and 2008. Since making its debut in 2007, T&T has never qualified for the main draw quarterfinals of the tournament and will be targeting further victories against Costa Rica and Peru in order to secure a top three finish in its group which will cement a main draw knockout spot. The top team in each pool at the end of the preliminary round will qualify directly to the semifinals while teams placed second and third in their respective pools will meet in cross-over quarterfinals on July 18. The semifinals and medal matches will take place on July 19 and 20
The teams are competing for six spots available to next year’s FIVB World Grand Prix. The top four teams from Norceca and the top South America’s side other than Brazil, who are automatically qualified, get tickets to the 2013 FIVB competition.