AFTER sweeping both titles in the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championships, Trinidad and Tobago players also copped the most prestigious awards during the presentation ceremony Sunday night at Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road, Port Of Spain.
Simon Blake and Channon Thompson captured three titles apiece, including the treasured Most Valuable Player (MVP) prizes. After being the leading scorer in all three of T&T games en route to the title match, Blake tied with teammate Ryan Stewart for a game-high 18 points as the hosts came from behind to defeat nine-time champions Barbados 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 for the gold medal.
Thomson top-scored in three of her team’s five matches and was second best on the scoreboard on the other two occasions, including when she scored 12 points during the 25-12, 25-13, 25-12 rout of Jamaica in Sunday night’s final.
The 20-year-old also received the prize for Best Server and was Best Spiker along with fellow France-based player Darlene Ramdin, who had a game-high 15 points in the gold-medal match. The only other member of the T&T female team to pick up an individual award was libero Rheeza Grant, who was adjudged the Best Receiver of the six-day tournament.
Despite losing just one set T&T finished tied in the individual-awards category as players from bronze medallists Suriname also walked away with five prizes. Sandrina Hunsel was Best Scorer and Best Opposite, Farahnaz Levens was Best Digger and Best Libero and Cheryl Brunings was the Best Setter.
Barbadians Shani Leacock and Thonya Joseph were the Best Blockers as silver medallists Jamaica were shut out of the individual awards.
In addition to being MVP, Blake, this country’s top beach volleyball player, was voted Best Scorer and Best Outside Spiker. Best Libero Ryan Mahadeo was the only other T&T male to win an award. Bronze medallists Curacao ended up second with three individual prizes as Renaldo Mota was the Best Receiver, Giandro Tokaay was the Best Setter and Rachid Isenia was one of two Best Blockers. The other was Byron Ferguson, who received the only award for the Bahamians, who won the previous edition in 2012 but could only finish fourth this time around.
Shawn Simpson picked up the only prize for silver-medallists and nine-time champs Barbados as their six-time national squash champ was the Best Opposite. Ryan McKenzie-Webb and Ricardo Chong from the Jamaican squad, which edged Suriname for fifth in the six-team tournament, were the Best Server and Best Digger, respectively, while Suriname’s Kevin Sporksledge and Blake were the Outside Spikers.
This was only the second time that T&T had swept both titles in the tournament, which began as an annual event in 1991 but has been contested biennially since 1996.
The other time was four years ago when T&T men, runners-up in 2006 and 2012, won their only other gold medal. Sunday’s night victory put this country’s girls on par with Barbados with the most female titles, but five of T&T six have been in a row and this is a record for most in succession.
The tournament was previously held in Trinidad in ’93 and ’02 and Barbados were crowned double champs on both occasions. Sunday night’s victories earned the T&T teams places in the NORCECA (North, Central America and the Caribbean) Continental Championships and the Pan American Cup next year.