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Caribbean champ T&T serves off Pool A qualifiers
Recently crowned five-time Senior Caribbean Women’s Volleyball champion, T&T, will serve off the 2014 FIVB World Volleyball Women’s Norceca First Round Pool A qualifiers against Bahamas in Paramaribo, Suriname today from 8 am (T&T time). The “Calypso Spikers,” ranked eighth in the Norceca region, only arrived in Suriname at 4.30 am yesterday after a five-hour delay in departure from Piarco International Airport on Thursday night but will be confident of overcoming the 18th-ranked Bahamas at the Ismay Van Wilgen Sports Hall in the four-team opener. The Bahamians were due to arrive in Suriname last night from Nassau. Host Suriname tackles Guadeloupe in the final match of the morning session two hours later.
In the afternoon session today, T&T faces Guadeloupe, a team it defeated at the Caribbean Championships in St Croix last month, from 5 pm while Suriname faces Bahamas in the second match. Tomorrow morning, Bahamas and Guadeloupe meet in the first match from 9 am, while Suriname and T&T clash in a rematch of the 2010 Caribbean Championship final, which the latter won at the same venue. Speaking yesterday prior to his team’s only training session in Suriname ahead of its first match today, T&T coach, Cuban-born Francisco “Panchee” Cruz shared that his team had no other option than to win the tournament. “We need to obtain the top spot in the group because for me its our only option,” stated Cruz. “Our preparation was not good because we did not have the training facilities available to us but at this level our team is more than capable of qualifying from this group as the winners for certain.” He said, “I say this because we have the best players in the Caribbean region and the best team overall.
However, in saying so for us to qualify from among the top teams in the Norceca region for the World Championships, we need to have proper facilities to train at least three hours per day.” Team captain Krystle Esdelle stated that she was also confident that the team selected would be able to get past its three opponents and top the group. “We came here with one purpose which is to win the gold medal and advance to the next phase of the qualifiers. “We are just off of completing another triumph at the Senior Caribbean Volleyball Championships, our fourth-in-a-row and we want to continue that trend with these qualifying matches.” In addition to Esdelle, the T&T squad comprises eight other players who were part of the triumphant team in St Croix at the Caribbean tourney in Kelly- Anne Billingy, Andrea Kinsale, Darlene Ramdin, Rheeza Grant, Courtnee-Mae Clifford, Abigail Gloud, and the Poland-based duo of Channon Thompson and Sinead Jack. Shurvette Beckles and Abbi Blackman make a return to the senior squad after a short lay-off due to injuries while national junior team libero, Rechez Lindsay makes the journey and will vie with Clifford for the starter’s role.
At the end of the round-robin series, the top two teams will meet in the final and the third and fourth place team battle for bronze, after which the top three teams will advance to next year’s second round of qualifiers. The women’s qualifying series in Suriname is the penultimate women’s first round group of the eight groups of qualifiers to be played with only Pool E (Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, Cayman Islands) carded for November in Jamaica left to be completed. The winner of Pool A will join Anguilla, Honduras and the second placed Group E in Pool I in the second round, while the runner-up will join Pool L (St Kitts/Nevis, Guatemala, and the third placed Pool E team. The third placed Pool A qualifier will play in second round Group E alongside Nicaragua, Bermuda and the winner of Pool E. The other second round groups already determined are Group J (St Lucia, Curacao, Antigua & Barbuda, Belize); Group K (US Virgin Islands, El Salvador, British Virgin Islands)
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