T&T senior women’s came up one win short in their bid to qualify to this year’s Pan American Games carded for July 26 to August 11 in Lima, Peru.
This after the “Calypso Spikers" went under to host Puerto Rico 16-25, 13-25, 16-25 in their Pan American Games Norceca Women’s Final-Four Qualifying Tournament decider at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, yesterday.
Both Puerto Rico and T&T entered the match with perfect 2-0 records after wins over Nicaragua and Guatemala respectively. However, the host dominated 37-25 on spikes, 8-0 blocks and 5-3 on service aces to secure the win.
Team captain Krystle Esdelle top-scored for T&T with 13 points while Channon Thompson added ten and Delicia Pierre, eight in the loss.
Following T&T’s debut at the FIVB Women’s World Volleyball Championship In Japan, late last year, the long-serving national coach, Cuban-born Francisco “Panchee” Cruz stepped down to pick up an appointment as an FIVB development coach for the Caribbean.
His position with the T&T team was taken up by his former understudy, Nicholson Drakes, who enjoyed brief stints at the helm of the team in the past making for a smooth transition.
However, the team, in Puerto Rico was without Japan-based Sinead Jack, Renele Forde, Darlene Ramdin, Kelly-Ann Billingy and Jalicia Ross-Kydd all missing through various reasons.
Still in the mix though, were former captain Esdelle along with fellow key spiker and European-based Thompson, Pierre, Afesha Olton and Latisha Morain, all members of the team which made its historic debut at the FIVB World Championship last year.
On Saturday night, the "Calypso Spikers" reigning eight-time Caribbean champions, inclusive of seven straight titles brushed aside Nicaragua 25-16, 25-19, 25-14 to improve to a 2-0 record, the same as Puerto Rico which spanked Guatemala 25-8, 25-11, 25-6.
Against, the Nicaraguans, T&T faced some resistance but in the end, they won 3-0 in 68 minutes led by the experienced duo of Turkey-based duo, Thompson and Esdelle, for their second triumph in-a-row.
Thompson was the top scorer for T&T once again with 22 points which comprised 13 spikes, four blocks and five service aces while Esdelle tallied 20 points, which included 16 kills, three aces and one block.
USA-based Pierre added eight points for T&T which outscored its Central American rival in all aspects of the match, 33-23 on spikes, 9-5 on blocks and 11-4 on aces. For Nicaragua, Hellen Tranas had 12 points.
The ‘Calypso Spikers’ also committed fewer errors, 17 to the losers 22 en route to the victory.
Commenting on the win, T&T coach Drakes said his team was a bit inconsistent.
“The inconsistency was present in the second set. I think we have lowered the intensity a bit and started to have problems in the reception and in our defence, but we managed to stabilise for the third set," he said.
President of NORCECA, Cristobal Marte Hoffiz said that if a NORCECA team decides not to attend the Pan Am Games then T&T will be offered the spot.
Speaking after the match team manager Aaron Pollard said his goal is now focus on Olympic qualification and having a full strength team for that. The team needs support in every aspect for that to happen especially in the medical department.
Simultaneously in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are contesting the inaugural Women’s Volleyball Caribbean Series, a three-match series between the national teams.
The Dominican Republic secured the title with a 25-23, 25-23, 25-19 win on Saturday night, to add to Friday’s 19-25, 25-19, 25-14, 25-16, come-from-behind triumph ahead of last night’s final match.
This event will be disputed every year in early January during the break of the foreign leagues where the most important players of both countries play as reinforcements.
The host country is going to be alternated which means that in 2020, a Dominican Republic city will welcome both teams.
Puerto Rico bt Guatemala 25-8, 25-11, 25-6
T&T bt Nicaragua 25-16, 25-19, 25-14
Caribbean Series Match Two:
Dominican Republic bt Puerto Rico 25-23, 25-23, 25-19