MOST of the top players in the country will be competing for massive prize-money from today in the second edition of the Caribbean Volleyball League at Sports & Physical Education Centre (SPEC) of the St Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies.
Four men’s and four women’s teams will be doing battle for the next five days and the champions will receive US$5,000 each.
Glamorgan, Technocrats, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and New Arising Sports Company are the women’s teams involved. The men’s event will also include teams from Glamorgan and Technocrats, along with Big SEPoS (South East Port of Spain) and Toco Youth Volleyball Academy.
The tournament will serve off with round-robin action at noon today and the group phase will conclude on Friday night. The semi-finals will take place the following day and the gold medal matches are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Boasting national players Abby Blackman, Renele Forde, Abigail Gloud, Courtnee-Mae Clifford and the Poland-based trio of Krystle Esdelle, Sinead Jack and Channon Thompson, UTT are definitely the women’s favourites.
They were all on the squad that claimed the gold medal three days ago at the same venue and qualified for the penultimate round of qualifying for next year’s Women’s World Championships in Italy.
Thompson captured four individual awards in that tournament, including the Most Valuable Player, and Clifford picked up three of the other five.
Arch-rivals Glamorgan could provide the sternest challenge to the defending champions. They have national players Rechey Lindsay and the Findland-based Darlene Ramdin in the finals, as well as former national players Marisha Herbert and Jalicia Ross, beach volleyball star Ayana Dyette and Barbadians Shari Matthews and Alicia Wood.
Former national captain Kelly Billingy, one of the Caribbean’s leading players for over a decade, is at the helm of a Technocrats’ outfit, which also includes fellow national players Andrea Kinsale and Samantha Prescott as well as former national players Rheeza Grant and Nadiege Honore.
There is no clear favourite for the men’s title, but Technocrats have to be respected with the likes of national players Kevin Nimrod, Kelvin Alleyne, Sean Morrison, Russel Pena and Honore’s brother, Marc, who is based in Europe and is arguably the top player from this country.
The Glamorgan outfit will include veteran national player Saleem Ali as well as Ryan Stewart, Shervon Calliste and Ryan Mahadeo.
National captain Nolan Tash, Jessel Davis and under-21 national players Akim Bushe and Brandon Legall are on Big SEPOS’ team, while Kevin Edwards and beach stars Colin Bernard, Simon Blake, Daneil Williams and Fabian Whitfield are among those playing for Toco.
The men of Technocrats and Big SEPoS will clash to open the tournament at noon today and two hours later Technocrats women will face Glamorgan. And an hour after the 6 p.m. opening ceremony, UTT will oppose newcomers “New Rising” and Glamorgan and Toco will conclude the day’s programme at 9 p.m.