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Calypso Spikers come up short in Italy bid
T&T’s senior women’s volleyball team came up short in their bid to qualify for a first ever appearance at an FIVB World Championship.
This follows a nervous display in a 14–25, 29–31, 17–25 loss at the hands of pre-tournament favourites Mexico in their winner-take-all North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (Norceca) Women’s Playoff match on Sunday night.
The match which lasted one hour and 25 minutes was the second of a final day double-header at the University of the West Indies Sports and Physical Educational Centre, St Augustine.
It was preceded by a 24–26, 25–22, 28–26, 25–18 win for Costa Rica over Nicaragua to end in third spot.
However, all eyes were on the T&T and Mexico encounter as local supporters converged at the facility clad mostly in red to give their backing to the Calypso Spikers, led by 14-year national team veteran Kelly-Anne Billingy, and inclusive of seven other players, who were part of the team that missed out on qualification four years ago, also at the final hurdle.
The locals, who seemed a bit tense from the first serve, quickly found themselves in a 1–3 hole, but got a stroke of fortune when Mexican captain Andrea Rangel, the tournament’s Best Opposite twisted her ankle and was forced out the remainder of the contest.
This paved the way for Lizbeth Sainz, the Best Spiker and Most Valuable Player awardee to step up a notch which she did and along with Zaria Orellana inspired their team to an easy first set win.
The second set saw a much more focussed T&T getting their blocking and passing act together, which allowed Channon Thompson, Best Spiker and middle-blockers Sinead Jack and Jalicia Ross-Kydd to be more effective.
But after taking early charge of the set at 6–1, T&T committed too many unforced errors which allowed the Mexicans back into the contest and within sight of a 2–0 lead in the best-of-five-sets contest at 24–22.
Surprisingly, the Mexicans then squandered two chances to take the set while T&T also had three chances of its own to level the match, but wasted them all as the Central Americans eventually snatched the vital advantage at 31–29.
Faced with an uphill task, T&T tried their best early on in the third set, but their resistance was slowly broken down by the well drilled Mexicans, who came out on top 25–17 to clinch the match and the 24th and final ticket available to the World Championship carded for Italy from September 23 to October 12.
In Italy, Mexico which has now qualified for the World Championship seven times, will play in the city of Verona in Group C alongside NORCECA rivals USA, Russia, Thailand, Netherlands and Kazakhstan awaits. The Mexicans had a match-high 16 points, while Claudia Rios added 13, Dulce Carranza chipped in with 11 and Orellana came off the bench and contributed seven.
The Mexicans were also benefactors of 29 errors from T&T, and held an 8-3 advantage in service aces and 42–25 in spikes.
France-based Channon Thompson, T&T’s most consistent player throughout the five-day competition, top-scored with 14 points and Krystle Esdelle got ten.
The duo of Ross-Kyyd and Sinead Jack, added six and five points, respectively, for the losers who dominated their opponents on blocks 11–4 while taking advantage of 21 unforced errors by Mexico.
Earlier on Sunday, Angela Willis led Costa Rica with 21 points while Heidy Trana had a tournament-high 23 points for Nicaragua.
The final placing was very disappointing for the Costa Ricans as they were the only country of the five involved in the round-robin tournament with World Championship experience and were attempting to qualify for the third straight time.
Mexico bt Costa Rica 25–14, 25–17, 25–11
T&T bt 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
Nicaragua bt Panama 25–16, 24–26, 25–10, 25–19
T&T bt Costa Rica 25–22, 25–15, 25–21
Costa Rica bt Panama 25–19, 25–19, 23–25, 25–18
Mexico bt Nicaragua 25–14, 25–14, 25–19
Costa Rica bt Nicaragua 24–26, 25–22, 28–26, 25–18
Mexico bt T&T 25–14, 31–29, 25–17