My son Kyle is not a normal boy. This week he took up a teddy bear and hugged it, then brought it to me and ordered, “Hug.”
“We are ready as can be.”
These were the words of coach Nicholson Drakes as T&T senior women’s volleyball team readied itself to host the final FIVB Norceca Women’s World Championship qualifiers at the University of the West Indies Sports and Physical Educational Centre, St Augustine, from tomorrow until Sunday.
The qualifiers will involve host T&T, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua from which only the winner will advance to the FIVB World Championship in Italy from September 23 to October 12.
The Costa Ricans are the lone participating team with experience on that level, having qualified for the last two editions. They were last involved in the Pan American Cup in Mexico when they placed 10th of 11 teams in Mexico, last month.
The hosts finished eighth in that tournament to secure the final Notrceca ticket to World Grand Prix in July next year in the United States.
T&T did not win a match in Mexico and ended up 11th but they did take the first two sets in their clash against the Mexicans. In recent meetings T&T has beaten both Costa Rica and Mexico.
The five teams competing in T&T all qualified to this final round of qualifiers after ending as runner-up of their respective Third Round qualifying groups which were held from May to June with USA, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Canada, the teams to reach Italy thus far from the Norceca region.
The Calypso Spikers led by veteran, Kelly-Anne Billingy, one of eight players, who were on the team that reached the last round of qualifiers four years ago en route to Japan were second to the Cubans in La Habana in their Third Round series after topping their First and Second Rounds groups in Suriname and here on home soil, respectively.
Today, the T&T team will train twice again, from 9 am at UWI and tonight from 8 pm ahead of its opening encounter with Nicaragua tomorrow from 8 pm.
This will be followed by matches against 55th ranked Panama on Thursday, Costa Rica on Friday, both from 8 pm and then on Sunday against Mexico, from 6 pm.
The winner of the qualifiers will go directly into group C of the 24 team FIVB World Championship and would be based in the Verona for the first round matches against USA, Russia, Thailand, Netherlands and Kazakhstan.
T&T team: Kelly-Ann Billingy (captain), Krystle Esdelle, Rheeza Grant, Jalicia Ross-Kydd, Channon Thompson, Marisha Herbert, Courtnee-Mae Clifford, Darlene Ramdin, Aisha Sealy-Morrison, Makila Yorke, Abby Blackman, Sinead Jack.
Technical staff: Nicholson Drakes (coach), Idalmis Moya Gato (assistant coach), Sean Morrison (assistant coach), Esseil Seecharan (assistant coach), Rolando Boza Cruz (physiotherapist) and Ian Williams (massage therapists).
Mexico vs Costa Rica, 6 pm
T&T vs Nicaragua, 8 pm
Costa Rica vs Nicaragua, 6 pm
T&T vs Panama, 8 pm
Panama vs Mexico, 6 pm
T&T vs Costa Rica, 8 pm
Panama vs Costa Rica, pm
Mexico vs Nicaragua, pm
Panama vs Nicaragua, 4 pm
T&T vs Mexico, 6 pm
Closing ceremony, 8 pm.