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Record 5th straight gold for T&T girls

By \\\\\ Shammi Kowlessar

TRINIDAD and Tobago’s saved their best for last as they slaughtered Jamaica Sunday night to capture a record fifth consecutive women’s gold medal in the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championships at Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.

The overpowering performance came right after the men representing the red, white and black had captured their second gold medal with a come-from-behind 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 triumph over Barbados.

In what was by far their most convincing performance of the tournament, this country’s women prevailed 25-12, 25-13, 25-12 in 73 minutes.

Three nights earlier, they had received their only challenge when they took almost twice as long to defeat the same opponents in the round-robin group stage.

T&T could have put away the Jamaicans in straight sets on that occasion, but needed four after they failed to convert two match points at 24-22 and eventually lost the third 34-32 in an hour.

It was the only set that the hosts lost during the tournament and they definitely made the Jamaicans pay for it Sunday night.

Although they inflicted straight-set defeats on Suriname, Bahamas and Barbados, skipper Kelly Billingy felt that that T&T did not produce their best during the tournament, but “saved it for last.”

Speaking about saving one’s best for last, Darlene Ramdin had ten kills and three blocked shots as the former national youth captain top-scored in a game for the first time in the six-day tournament with 15 points, including nine kills.

Fellow France-based player Channon Thompson, who led all scores in three of T&T four previous matches, was second best for the second time and the 20-year-old had ten kills in her 12 points.

Marisha Herbert (ten) was the only other player to reach double figures, while captain Simone Asque led the way for the Jamaicans with six points.

As expected the champs dominated all categories – 35-14 on kills, 10-2 on blocks and 6-1 on service winners.

T&T joined six-time champs Barbados as the most successful team in the tournament, which began as an annual event in 1991 but has been contested biennially since 1996.

However this country’s girls broke the record for most consecutive gold medals as Barbados had made it four straight when they won their last title and handed T&T their last defeat in this tournament in 2004.

After beating T&T in four sets during the round-robin phase, the men of Barbados were attempting to capture their tenth crown during the 15th edition of the tournament.

But star striker Shawn Simpson spent a significant amount of the match on the bench with an injured shoulder and T&T prevailed in 127 minutes. Still, the six-time Barbados national squash champ led the way for his team with 12 points. 

After being the leading scorer in this country’s three previous matches, Simon Blake was forced to share the spotlight as compatriot Ryan Stewart also notches 18 points. However Blake had 17 kills, five more than Stewart.  

Marc Honore (13) and Mikheil Hoyte (12) also scored in double figures for the hosts, who had also struck gold for the only other time four years ago and picked up the silver medal in 2006 and the previous tournament in 2012.

The tournament was previously held in Trinidad in ’93 and ’02 and Barbados were crowned double champs on both occasions.

Their 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.

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