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Cruz: We can qualify in Cuba
Francisco “Panchee|” Cruz, the Cuban-born coach of this country’s senior women’s volleyball team and veteran player Kelly-Anne Billingy have both expressed their belief that T&T can qualify for a first ever FIVB Women’s World Championship carded for Italy later this year. But before, T&T reaches Italy, the reigning five-time Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) champions and seventh NORCECA-ranked “Calypso Spikers” will have to win their Third Round Norceca Group Q four-team qualifying series in Havana, Cuba, involving the host, Curacao and Haiti from tomorrow to May 18.
The other third round women qualifying groups are Group P (Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guadeloupe) in Santo Domingo; Group O (USA, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras) in USA, both series from Tuesday to May 19; Group S (Canada, Mexico, US Virgin Islands and Jamaica) from Wednesday to May 120 in Canada and Group R (Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, St Lucia, Barbados) from May 20-26 in Puerto Rico. At the end of the five round-robin groups, each group winner will qualify to the FIVB World Championship while the second placed teams in each group advances to the final qualification round in T&T at the Jean Pierre Complex, Mucurapo from June 2-9.
Speaking at a press conference at the T&T Olympic Committee House, Abercromby Street, Wednesday, Cruz who has been at the helm of the women’s team for the past eight years was quick to note the tournament in Cuba will be a very strong one, but at the sam time acknowledged his team was ready for the challenges ahead. “We will try our best and qualify from this phase in Cuba because we feel in the fourth round playoffs for the teams that finish second it will be much tougher. However, Cruz noted that preparing the team for the tournament like most in the past has been very difficult due to a lack of training facilities and matches while Cuba has had much better preparations.
He said, “Here at home we have to compete with other activities for the use of the facilities to train, but the same time, the Cuban team even though it is in the rebuilding stage has been to training camps in China and has their own facilities. Despite the obstacles, Cruz was confident in his team’s chances adding that over the past eight years the team has moved from being ranked 93rd in the world to a current position of 31st. Krystle Esdelle, who plays professionally with CSM Bucuresti of Romania, is one of four European-based players named in the 12-member team by Cruz.
The others are Channon Thompson (Evreux) and Darlene Ramdin (Terville Florange) both in France and Sinead Jack, of Russian club, Uralochka NTMK. The local women will train today at the Southern Regional Indoor Sports Arena, Pleasantville before departing tomorrow for Cuba via Panama. • T&T women’s team: Rheeza Grant, Abby Blackman, Rechez Lindsay, Channon Thompson, Marisha Herbert, Courtnee-Mae Clifford, Renele Ford, Jalicia Ross, Kelly-Anne Billingy, Darlene Ramdin, Sinead Jack, Krystle Esdelle.