An inexperienced and very youthful T&T team led by Kiune Fletcher was swept aside by favourites USA, 0-3 (8-25, 7-25, 7-25) in their Pool B opener at the eight-team NORCECA Women’s Continental Cup which began at Roberto Clemente Coliseum of Hato Rey, San Juan, Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
With little chance of qualifying to the Olympic Games from the tournament, the T&T women entered the eight-team event without top overseas-based players in Japan-based Sinead Jack, Darlene Ramdin, Channon Thompson, Taija Thomas and Renele Forde, who are unavailable because of engagements with their respective foreign clubs.
In addition to the overseas-based quintet, libero Afesha Olton-Humphreys are Jalicia Ross-Kydd are both injured and have not recovered in time while former Turkey-based captain Krystle Esdelle and Delicia Pierre are both unavailable for personal reasons.
The lone player roster with more than two years full-time experience at the senior level is former standout libero Courtnee-Mae Clifford, who made a return to the senior team after a five-year hiatus with her last competition being the 2014 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Vera Cruz, Mexico.
On the other hand, the USA women’s team ranked second in the world was represented by a strong team after coach Karch Kiraly and his staff selected the same 14 players who just won silver at the FIVB World Cup in Japan a week ago.
They include Outsides Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, Kim Hill, Jordan Larson, and Kelsey Robinson; Opposites Annie Drews, and Karsta Lowe. Middles: Tori Dixon, Chiaka Ogbogu, Hannah Tapp, and Haleigh Washington; Setters’ Lauren Carlini, and Jordyn Poulter, and Liberos Megan Courtney, and Justine Wong-Orantes
The Americans showed little mercy as they won in 54 minutes after dominating on spikes 35-8, blocks 6-2 and 15-0 on aces while feeding off of 18 T&T errors to their 12.
For the USA, Tetori Dixon and Hannah Trapp both scored 11 points, Karsta Lowe added ten, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley nine, and Lauren Carlini and Kimberly Hill eight in the one-sided contest.
On the opposite side of the net, T&T under the supervision of senior men’s team coach, Sean Morrison, got three points from captain Fletcher while the trio of Shanice Cottoy, Afiya Alexander and Danielle Noel added two each.
The Dominican Republic and Mexico faced off in the late match in Pool B, while in Pool A, Canada defeated Cuba 25-16, 22-25, 25-17, 25-14 ahead of the clash between Costa Rica and host Puerto Rico to complete the opening day’s schedule last night.
On Wednesday in Pool A, Canada faces Costa Rica from noon and Puerto Rico plays Cuba at 8.15 pm, while in Pool B, T&T meets Dominican Republic at 4 pm followed by USA and Mexico at 6 pm.
On Thursday, in the final pool matches, Costa Rica meets Cuba, Puerto Rico battles Canada, Mexico comes up against T&T, and USA clashes with the Dominican Republic.
The top team in each pool at the end of the round-robin phase will advance directly to the semifinals while the quarterfinals will be contested between the teams ranked second and third of each pool on October 11 with the winner playing the semifinals against the winners of the pools the following day.
At the end of the tournament on October 13, the top three ranked teams not already qualified at the end of the competition will get tickets to compete at the NORCECA Qualification Tournament to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next January in Santo Domingo.
The USA has already qualified for the Olympic Games as winners of one of the six FIVB World qualifiers and the Dominican Republic qualified as the host country of the confederation tournament and runner-ups of the NORCECA Champions Cup in Colorado Springs, won by the USA last August.