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Volleyballers qualify for Worlds

Published: 
Monday, October 16, 2017
JUBILATION! Cuban-born Francisco ‘Panchee’ Cruz, lying in front of the banner with his players and coaching staff, gives a thumbs-up after T&T qualified for the Women’s 2018 FIVB World Championship in Japan, after defeating Costa Rica 3-0 at the National Cycling Centre, in Balmain, Couva on Saturday night.

Turkey-based middle-blocker Sinead Jack led three scorers in double-figures as T&T Calypso Spikers capped off a historic year for local volleyball by booking a first ever ticket to the Women’s 2018 FIVB World Championship in Japan at the National Cycling Centre, in Balmain, Couva on Saturday night.

Having made their debut at the FIVB Women’s World Grand Prix in July in Mexico and then securing a seventh Senior Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) in Jamaica, the team coached by Cuban-born Francisco “Panchee” Cruz defeated Costa Rica 25-19, 25-16, 25-22, to improve to a 2-0 record.

T&T was scheduled to play its final round-robin match against Mexico (2-0), which already qualified at the same venue last night, to bring the curtain down on the 2018 FIVB World Championship qualification, the NORCECA Continental Women’s Pool C Qualifiers.

Four years ago, the T&T women came within a win of securing a spot for Italy, but fell to host Cuba in a group-decider after wins over Curacao and Haiti. Then a few months later, T&T again stumbled in its final match against Mexico here in T&T, after wins over Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.

However, playing at Couva on Saturday and coming off a comfortable straight sets win over Dominica in its opener on Friday night, Jack, who campaigns with Galatasaray, tallied 15 points, inclusive of 12 kills, two blocks and one service ace while captain Krystle Esdelle, who plies her trade in Turkey, added 13 on 12 kills and once service ace while France-based Channon Thompson chipped in with ten points.

Darlene Ramdin, who recently signed a contract in Philippines contributed seven, and the team’s vice-captain Jalicia Ross-Kydd, six in the 78 minutes contest for the winners, which held advantage in every category. The host recorded 39-25 in kills, 8-3 in blocks and 4-3 in aces. T&T also finished with 26 errors while Costa Rica totalled 24

While the win came in straight sets, T&T was made to work to beat the resilient Costa Ricans, which started off all three sets with advantage.

However, the Calypso Spikers power blocking and spiking would eventually kick in to control the visitors, who were led by Paola Ramirez’s 13 points, while Tannia Carazo and Yuliana Gonzalez chipped in with six apiece.

Speaking after the match an elated Esdelle expressed her delight with the team achieving a first ever World Championship spot.

She said: “I am so excited. Four years ago we lost our opportunity and this year we were determined to make it happen. We decided that we wanted to win tonight (Saturday) and not wait for tomorrow (yesterday). Our work has been difficult because it has been hard to keep the group together and look for support. We recovered well from our error against Costa Rica.”

Coach Cruz, who has been with the T&T team for close to a decade, added, “Costa Rica fought hard and my players were really pressured to win the qualification today. This is a historic win because our sport conditions aren’t ideal for practice and our years of hard work are paying off today. I worked with my players to control their anxiety and to follow my instructions; my job was also at stake. My team was able to push Costa Rica in our rhythm of the game.”

Earlier at the same venue, Mexico blanked Dominica in straight sets 25-7, 25-13, 25-7 to secure its Japan ticket.

Over in Santo Domingo, host Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico also booked their tickets to Japan with straights sets wins over Jamaica and Guatemala respectively ahead of their Pool A decider last night.

Dominican Republic defeated Jamaica 25-14, 25-11, 25-6, while Puerto Rico recorded a 25-11, 25-16, 25-13 victory over Guatemala.

The four teams to qualify this weekend now completes NORCECA’s representatives in Japan with Canada and Cuba having qualified from Pool B at the start of the month while USA, winners of the last FIVB World Championship, qualified automatically.