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Calypso Spikers trump Nicaragua
Outside-hitter Channon Thompson led three players in double-figure scoring as T&T eased past Nicaragua in straight sets, 26-24, 25-19, 25-13 in the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (Norceca) Women’s Playoffs at the University of the West Indies Sports and Physical Educational Centre, St Augustine on Thursday night. With the win which came in 73 minutes, the 31st world ranked “Calypso Spikers” improved to 2-0 in the five-team round-robin qualifiers, the same as pre-tournament favourites and 28th ranked Mexico who scolded Panama, 25-13, 25-15, 25-20 in the day’s opening encounter.
At the end of the five-team round-robin series which also includes Costa Rica, one team will earn the 24th and final ticket available to the FIVB World Championship in Italy from September 23 to October 12. They will go directly into Group C based in Verona with USA, Russia, Thailand, Netherlands and Kazakhstan awaits. However, to earn that final spot the Nicholson Drakes-coached T&T, the five-time reigning Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (Cazova) champions would have no doubt had to improve on their overall display going into their penultimate encounter last night with 29th ranked Costa Rica and tomorrow against the Mexicans, in what is most likely to be the tournament decider.
This after the Kelly-Anne Billingy got off to another sluggish start and trailed for most of the first set before sneaking ahead 21-20 and then sealing the set at 26-24 behind some effective blocking from Thompson and middle-blocker Sinead Jack. The second set saw a better start by T&T with France-based Darlene Ramdin finding her spiking range along with Jack as T&T forged ahead 12-7. But once again, some lacklustre play crept into the host play which allowed the gritty Nicaraguans back into the set at 14-14 and also at 17-17 after which T&T won eight of the next ten points to take a 2-0 lead. The third set proved to be a walk in the park for the local women who stepped up their game a notch and coasted to a 25-13 triumph, a confident booster ahead of last night’s encounter against Costa Rica, which was on a bye on Thursday night.
Thompson, followed up her match-high 15 points in Wednesday’s win over Panama with 16 points which included ten kills and five blocks, while Jack tallied 14, highlighted by seven blocks and Ramdin, 11 points, made up of ten kills and one ace. For Nicaragua, Elizabeth Trana was the lone player to reach double-figures with ten points, while Claudia Noguera got seven and Hellen Trana, chipped in with five. Overall, it was another dominant display by T&T who outscored its opponent, 34-22 in spikes and 17-3 in blocks while surprisingly being outdone 6-7 in service aces. Once again, T&T was guilty of committing more errors than its rival, 24 to 19, and going forward coach Drakes will sure hope to see that number decrease. Speaking after the win Billingy, who was drafted into the setter role due to an injury to Renele Forde before the start of the tournament said: “Nicaragua had a good game, especially in the first two sets. The third set we showed the level we can play at.
Concerning the sloppy play by her team early on, Billingy admitted her team started too slow and need to improve ahead of their next mach which was against a stronger team in Costa Rica.
After being on a bye on the opening night, it was the first match of the tournament for Nicaragua and their coach Rene Quintana said: “I am satisfied that we played well against a team that is very good. It is difficult to play against a team of very tall players who have good control over the net.” In the opener, Mexico took another step towards qualification when they whipped Panama 25-13, 25-15, 25-20 led by Zaria Orellana with 14 points, while captain Andrea Rangel got 13 and Claudia Rios, eight in the 73-minute contest. Panama had a team-high Johanna Arroyo eight points for her team while katherine Taju had six and Maria Gallimore, four.
Last night the Mexicans had the bye while Nicaragua came up against Panama in the opener while today, Costa Rica plays Panama and 6pm and Mexico tangles with Nicaragua two hours later. Tomorrow, the tournament will conclude with Nicaragua against Costa Rica from 4 pm followed by T&T against Mexico, from 6 pm in what is expected to be the tournament decider for the remaining spot in Italy and the sixth from the Norceca region to join USA, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Canada who all qualified after topping their second in 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.
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.
Mexico bt Costa Rica 25-14, 25-17, 25-11
T&T vs Panama 25-17, 25-16, 25-15
Mexico bt Panama 25-13, 25-15, 25-20
T&T bt Nicaragua 26-24, 25-19, 25-13
Today (Friday July 18):
Nicaragua vs Panama, 6 pm
T&T vs Costa Rica, 8 pm
Today (Saturday July 19):
Costa Rica vs Panama, 6pm
Mexico vs Nicaragua, 8pm
Tomorrow (Sunday July 20):
Nicaragua vs Costa Rica, 4 pm
T&T vs Mexico, 6 pm
Closing ceremony, 8 pm.