Tobago-born trio Shontelle Yearwood, Asia Joseph and Kerdisha Sutherland all attached to the University of T&T have been named in a 12-member T&T women's senior volleyball team due to depart tomorrow to contest NORCECA Continental Championship Olympic Qualifiers in Michoacan, Mexico from Sunday to October 3.
The team which will be led by newly appointed captain Renele Forde also included three other newcomers in Hannah Floyd, Rejanne Wallace and Shernice De Four.
The regulars in the team and who a lot will rely on are captain Forde, who makes her return after a lengthy injury layoff, overseas-based quartet Sinead Jack (Russia), Channon Thompson (Turkey), Darlene Ramdin (Hungary) and former captain and ace spiker Krystle Esdelle.
The trio of Jack, Thompson and Ramdin will link up with the team in Mexico, while Esdelle who last played in Romania has been in training with the team for some time at home having declined an overseas deal this season.
Among the notable absentees are former captain Kelly-Anne Billingy, Courtnee-Mae Clifford, and Jalicia Ross-Kydd, all of whom have taken a break from the sport.
At the eight-team event, T&T which placed sixth last time out after losing to Mexico in the fifth placed playoff, will compete in Pool B with the host, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, who are the two-time reigning silver medal winners and 2009 champion.
Seven-time champions USA (1981, 1983, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2013) head Pool A which also features Costa Rica, Cuba and Canada.
Team USA has won five of the last seven editions and reached the podium in 21 of the 23 editions since the tournament began in 1969.
The local women's team which will be coached by former two-time Cuban Olympic women's volleyball winning gold medal player Idalmis Gato is due to depart tomorrow and held another training session at the Jean Pierre Complex, Mucurapo, on Monday.
However, prior to the training session, T&T Volleyball president, Daymian Stewart and captain Forde paid a courtesy call on the Ministry of Sports, Permanent Secretary Gillian Mac Intyre to finalise the release of funds to assist the team in getting to the tournament.
Speaking, following the meeting at Ministry of Sports Office, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, Stewart said he was very hopeful that the Ministry now under the leadership of Minister Darryl Smith would come through for the women as well as the men's team, both reigning Caribbean champions, after capturing the titles on home soil last year.
Stewart said, "We at the T&TVF managed to raise $180,000, but we still require a further $400,000 to cover the travel expenses of both teams.
"The T&TVF planned for these events in the new financial year starting October 1, but the Continental body (NORCECA) confirmed that the women's event would take place from September 25-October 3 while the men run from October 3-11.
"This tournament which is the first step in Olympic qualifying fell in a very rough period as T&T is now coming off general elections and some transformation is taking place and one would expect some pressures."
Despite the challenges financially, the long serving volleyball official said he remained confident that the team can represent T&T and the Caribbean creditably.
"It's a very tough tournament where all the top teams in NORCECA and the winner of this event is expected to be a major contender for the gold medal at next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"But for us, we are going through somewhat of a transition phase with a few new players coming into the team and our level will be measured against Mexico and Costa Rica, who are closer to us in the world rankings.
With regards to the new players, Stewart noted that it will be very critical in their development.
This will be T&T's fifth appearance at the Continental Championship since making its debut in 2005 at home with an eighth placed finish. This was followed by a sixth place showing in 2007 (Mexico), eight in Puerto Rico (2009) and seventh of nine teams, its best outing two years in Caguas, Puerto Rico after outplaying Costa Rica, 26-24, 25-21, 25-12.
It will be the third international outing of the year for T&T senior women's team as they also topped their Second Round Norceca FIVB Women's World Championship Qualifiers at St Augustine in May and will resume their quest for a spot in Italy next year.
T&T women's team: Krystle Esdelle, Channon Thompson, Sinead Jack, Darlene Ramdin, Renele Forde (captain), Hannah Floyd, Shontelle Yearwood, Asia Joseph, Kerdisha Sutherland, Afeisha Olton, Rejeanne Wallace, Shernice De Four.
Technical staff: Idalmis Gato (coach), Francisco Cruz (assistant coach/technical director)
n September 27: Costa Rica vs USA, 1 pm; Cuba vs Canada, 5 pm
n September 28: Cuba vs Costa Rica, 2 pm; USA vs Canada, 6 pm,
n September 29: Canada vs Costa Rica, 2 pm; USA vs Cuba, 6 pm
n September 27: Dom Republic vs Puerto Rico, 3 pm; Mexico vs T&T, 8 pm
n September 28: T&T vs Dom Republic, 4 pm; Mexico vs Puerto Rico, 8 pm
n September 29: Puerto Rico vs T&T, pm; Mexico vs Dom Republic, 8 pm
n September 30: 2nd B vs 3rd A, 6 pm; 2nd A vs 3rd B, 8 pm
n Classification fifth to eighth, 2 pm & 4 pm
n Semifinals first to fourth, 6 pm & 8 pm
n Seventh spot playoff, 2pm
Fifth spot playoff. 4pm