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Calypso Spikers ace Panama
France-based outside hitter Channon Thompson rediscovered her power serving skill when she rattled off six aces in her match high 15 points to lead T&T past Panama 25-17, 25-16, 25-15 in their opener of the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) Women’s Playoffs to the 2014 FIVB World Championship on Wednesday night.
This was in the feature match of a double-header at the University of the West Indies Sports and Physical Educational Centre, St Augustine, which was preceded by a 25-14, 25-17, 25-11 win for world 28th ranked Mexico, the pre-tournament favourites, over Costa Rica, ranked 29th.
Going into the match, the world 31st ranked “Calypso Spikers” were confident of victory under the guidance of newly appointed head coach Nicholson Drakes. Drakes replaced Cuban Francisco “Panchee” Cruz after his the sudden resignation of after eight years at the helm last month.
T&T, led by captain Kelly-Anne Billingy, the five-time reigning Caribbean champions, quickly asserted themselves by storming into a 5-0 lead. The early charge was inspired by some alert play at the net by middle-blockers Sinead Jack and Jalicia Ross-Kydd against the weak attacks from the 55th ranked Panamanians.
However, as in recent matches, the T&T women dropped their level of play a bit which allowed the visitors to claw their way back into the set at 12-11, before the host eventually pulled away to take the set at 25-17.
The second set was more of the same with T&T taking a 3-0 lead only for Panama to win the next five points and get its first lead of the match at 5-3.
But their joy was short-lived as the local women found their rhythm and pulled away from 11-9 to take the second set at 25-16 for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five-sets match.
The third set proved to be a stroll as Thompson and her team-mates all chipped in with telling spikes, blocks and digs of their own to seal the comfortable win ahead of their second match last night against 46th ranked Nicaragua.
The Nicaraguans, the fifth team in the competition, had the opening night off.
Thompson’s tally also included eight spikes and one block while Jack added 11 points (six spikes, four blocks, one ace), Ross-Kydd got ten (six spikes, four blocks), Billingy nine points and Esdelle, eight.
Despite committing 25 errors, T&T dominated the contest in all other aspects (32-16 on spikes, 12-6 on blocks and 13-1 in aces). Panama committed, 18 errors.
For Panama, captain Johanna Arroyo was her team’s main contributor with nine points while Katherine Taju added four, and the duo of Angela Evans and Jenny Madrid, three apiece in the 75-minute contest.
Commenting on the win, Billingy said although she was delighted with the win, her team will need to improve on the things it did not do well and cut down on its error if T&T is to realise its dream of reaching the World Championship in Italy in September.
Drakes echoed the views of his captain, adding, “We have a lot of work to do as we go forward in the tournament, because it was not our best performance. We will continue to take it match by match as we have respect for all the teams, but we intend to win this tournament.”
With regard to his team’s loss, Panamanian coach Reynaldo Ortega acknowledged that the T&T team took full advantage of their superior height while they also served well to prevent his team from playing like they are used to.
In Wednesday’s opener, Andrea Rangel led three Mexican players in double-figures with 16 points while Lizbeth Sainz added 14, and Dulce Carranza, 11 while Verania Willis got nine and her sister, Angela Willis, seven for the losers.
Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children and the public is being asked to come out in their numbers wearing red, white and black to support the national team as they aim to make the best of this final opportunity to create history for themselves and this country.
Final Round Qualifiers
Mexico bt Costa Rica 25-14, 25-17, 25-11
T&T vs Panama 25-17, 25-16, 25-15
Nicaragua vs Panama, 6 pm
T&T vs Costa Rica, 8 pm
Costa Rica vs Panama, 6pm
Mexico vs Nicaragua, 8pm
Nicaragua vs Costa Rica, 4 pm
T&T vs Mexico, 6 pm
Closing ceremony, 8 pm.