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Calypso Spikers target winning start
T&T’s “Calypso Spikers” led by veteran spiker Kelly-Anne Billingy will be confident of making a winning start to what they hope is their final round of qualifiers to the FIVB World Championship in Italy later this year when they meet little fancied Haiti in their 2014 NORCECA World Championship Qualifying Tournament, Third Round Women Group Q qualifiers in La Habana, Cuba today from 3pm (TT time). The four-team round-robin tournament which also involves host and fifth ranked Cuba and Curacao, ranked ninth, who meet in today's second match from 5pm takes place at the Palacio De Los Deportes, Ciudad Deportiva until Saturday at the end of which the group winner will qualify automatically to Italy.
The second placed will have another chance to book a ticket to Italy but will need to overcome its opponents in the Fourth and final round of qualification which takes place in T&T at the Jean Pierre Complex, Mucurapo from June 2 to 9. When qualification for Italy started in 2012, T&T, the reigning five-time Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) champions and seventh NORCECA-ranked team. Made light work of its round one Group A opposition by beating host Suriname, Bahamas and Guadeloupe to reach the Second Round on home soil last year where it also dominated Barbados, Honduras and Anguilla in Pool I. The Haitians, meanwhile advanced as the third placed team in Group C behind, US Virgin Islands and Curacao in round one while they were second in Group N Round Two play behind Panama.
Yesterday, the 12-member national women’s team held their second training session around mid-day at the tournament venue and afterwards a confident coach, Cuban-born Francisco “Panchee” Cruz who has been with the team for the past eight years said his team was ready to begin their final journey towards Italy. Cruz said, “All the players are ready, but against Haiti I will be using most of the reserve players because I do not expect them to challenge us a lot. France-based Darlene Ramdin, a St John’s University graduate, now coming off her second professional stint with Terville Florange in France is hoping that her experienced gain by playing in Europe along with other team members, Channon Thompson (France), Sinead Jack (Russia), Marisha Herbert (Russia) and Krystle Esdelle (Romania) helps the team.
Ramdin added, “We are all coming off of very high levels of club competition so I think we can bring a higher level of intensity to the team which will help us to reach of goal. Ramdin, like Billingy, said that the disappointment of not qualifying in 2010 is a motivational factor for her. The teams which will compete in the other Third Round Women qualifying groups are Group P (Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guadeloupe) from May 13 to 19 in Santo Domingo; Group O (USA, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras) from May 13 to 19 in USA; Group S (Canada, Mexico, US Virgin Islands and Jamaica) from May 14 to 20 in Canada and Group R (Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, St Lucia, Barbados) from May 20-26 in Puerto Rico.
T&T women’s team: Rheeza Grant, Abby Blackman, Rechez Lindsay, Channon Thompson, Marisha Herbert, Courtnee-Mae Clifford, Renele Ford, Jalicia Ross-Kydd, Kelly-Anne Billingy (captain), Darlene Ramdin, Sinead Jack, Krystle Esdelle. Technical staff: Francisco Cruz (coach), Nicholson Drakes (assistant coach), Idalmis Gato-Moya (assistant coach), Daymian Stewart (T&T Volleyball Federation president/Team manager), Kamla Elcock (Chaperone)