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Young, Cruickshank lead U-18 v-ball hopes
Glamorgan duo Reann Young and Kaylon Cruickshank will spearhead this country’s medal hopes when they come up against host Costa Rica at the NORCECA Under-18 women’s volleyball championship at the national gymnasium, San Jose, Costa Rica, from 8 pm (10 pm T&T time) tonight in their Pool A opener.
However, first on court today will be Pool C teams, St Lucia, the Eastern Caribbean champions and Puerto Rico from 4pm followed by Pool B duo, Honduras and six-time defending champions, USA.
T&T will next meet Guatemala tomorrow (Wednesday) in Pool A round-robin play of the nine-team tournament which will conclude group play on Thursday after which the main draw knockout stage will take place until the final.
The T&T team under the supervision of long serving coach Macsood Ali and his son, assistant coach Saleem Ali, left here early Sunday morning via Miami for St Lucia along with team manager Kamla Elock and was expected to get in two training sessions at the tournament venue ahead of yesterday’s preliminary enquiry and today’s opener against the host.
While the local squad has not competed much on the international stage, a few of the players have had the experience of playing at a higher age-group (Under-20) in the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association Championship which should serve them well in San Jose. They include Young, Cruickshank and their Glamorgan club-mates Nicolette De Mille and Aaliyah Alexis who were all part of the Ali-coached Under-20 squad which got silver behind host Martinique at last year’s CAZOVA Tournament in Martinique.
In addition, only newcomers Jordyn Ali and Johhalcyon Drayton were not part of the team which later captured the Under-16 CAZOVA title on home soil at the Eastern Regional Indoor Sports Arena, Tacaricia last December beating Barbados in the final for a third straight crown. Going into the tournament, reigning champions USA who have won seven of the eight editions, including the last six since its inception in 1998 to go with one runner-up placing will start as favourites once more while Puerto Rico, with a gold medal in 2000, when the event took place in the Dominican Republic, is the only other country to be crowned at the biennial tournament. The other teams involve are Mexico in Pool B and Dominican Republic in Pool C.
At the end of Thursday’s group stage, the two pool winners with the highest ranking will receive byes directly to the semifinals and the pool winner with the lowest ranking will compete in the quarterfinals with the second placed teams. The top three teams at the end of the competition will get tickets to the 2015 FIVB Girls’ Under-18 World Championship.
When the tournament was last held in Tijuana, Mexico, two years ago, USA won 21-25, 25-7, 25-23, 25-15 over Dominican Republic for gold while Mexico battled past Puerto Rico in five sets for bronze. T&T, which was beaten in its pool matches by Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico was sixth of the seven teams with Costa Rica last and Guatemala, fifth. The Dominican Republic will also enter the competition on a high after an outstanding showing at the 41st Annual AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando, Florida where it finished with the silver medal of the International Division behind Brazil.
T&T team: Nicolette De Mille (Glamorgan), Shakeema Lake (Glamorgan), Reann Young (Glamorgan), Aaliyah Alexis (Glamorgan), Johanna Belmar (Glamorgan), Johhalcyon Drayton (Glamorgan), Sara Low (Maribuntas), Kaylon Cruickshank (Glamorgan), Nekeisa Blackman (Glamorgan), Destiny Leon (Providence), Alexandrea Jones (Glamorgan), Jordyn Ali (Glamorgan).
Technical staff: Macsood Ali (coach), Saleem Ali (assistant coach), Kamla Elcock (manager)
Group A: T&T, Costa Rica, Guatemala
Group B: Honduras, Mexico, USA
Group C: Puerto Rico, St Lucia, Dominican Republic
Tournament fixtures (T&T time):
Today: T&T vs Costa Rica, 10 pm
Tomorrow: Guatemala vs T&T, 8 pm
Thursday: Costa Rica vs Guatemala, 10 pm
Friday: Ninth place playoffs:
Saturday: Quarterfinals and Seventh place playoff:
Sunday: Semifinals and Fifth place playoff
Monday: Third place and final