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SAINT LUCE—The T&T “Calypso Spikers” coached by long-serving Macsood “Macki” Ali will start as favourites for a record seventh lien on the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Junior (Under-20) Women’s Championship crown when the ninth edition serves off today. However, on today’s opening day of matches in the five-team competition, the six-time winners T&T will not be in action as it has the day off. Instead, two-time runner Barbados will serve off the tournament against 2009 champions Guadeloupe from 5.30 pm followed by host Martinique, hoping to improve its best ever showing of third spot back in 2003 on home soil facing last year’s runner-up US Virgin Islands at the Hall des Sports, Saint Luce. The Netherlands Antilles, which has since been disbanded was the only other country to have won the Under-20 Women’s Championship in 1999. The five participating will first play a round-robin tournament from 5pm and 7pm daily at the end of which the top four teams will advance to the semifinals, with first meeting fourth and second facing third for a right to play the gold medal and bronze medal matches.
At the end of the tournament the winner will qualify for the NORCECA Continental Under-20 Championship to be hosted by the USA later this year. Last year in St Croix, US Virgin Islands, T&T led by tournament “Most Valuable Player” Channon Thompson, won a record sixth crown and fifth in six tournaments. However, Thompson along with team captain, Samantha Prescott and a few others are no longer part of the team which is now led by newly appointed captain Zahra Collins. Despite their absence the Ali-coached squad will be hoping for a repeat of its showing on the French-speaking Island in 2003 when it won its second straight Junior Women’s crown and third in four outings. Collins, is no stranger to success as she was part of the T&T Under-16 team which also lifted its CAZOVA divisional title last year in St Croix and is one of nine members of either the Under-16 or Under-18 team which were victorious at last year’s tournaments, in this current squad.
Speaking yesterday, the 16-year-old Collins of local club Glamorgan said the team’s arrival in Martinique on Friday everything has been going according to plan “We were the first overseas team to arrive for the tournament which allowed us the chance to get an early use of the practice facilities which was good for us.” With regards to the team’s chances of securing a record seventh title at this level, all under the guidance of coach Ali, Collins said the team was very confident of doing well even though they had little knowledge on the host and Guadeloupe teams.
“We have seen US Virgin Islands and Barbados before and know what to expect whereas we don’t have much information on Martinique and Guadeloupe because they did not compete at the last edition in USVI and don’t know what to expect,” she added. “Despite that we have prepared very well under our coaches and we have come to this tournament very confident that we can retain our title,” ended Collins.
Coach Ali echoed the views of Collins saying that the confidence level of the team is very high. “They (T&T players” know exactly what they are here for and it’s now all down to staying focus on the job at hand and executing our plans, match by match. Ali added, “Like Collins said, we don’t know much about the French speaking teams but we expect all teams to be very competitive and come hard at us because we are the defending champions. The T&T coach while expressing a little disappointment in that his team had to train without the use of a net during its first session said they were still making the best of what they have and preparation has been very good leading up to its first match on Monday against the host country from 7pm.
Guadeloupe vs Barbados, 5.30pm
Martinique vs US Virgin Islands, 7.30pm
Guadeloupe vs US Virgin Islands, 5pm
Martinique vs T&T, 7pm
T&T vs Guadeloupe, 5pm
US Virgin Islands vs Barbados, 7pm
Barbados vs T&T, 5pm
Martinique vs Guadeloupe, 7pm
T&T vs US Virgin Islands, 5pm
Martinique vs Barbados, 7pm
1st vs 4th, 5pm
2nd vs 3rd, 7pm
Third place match, 5.30pm
Gold medal match, 7.30pm