Saturday, February 17, 2018

T&T battle Mexico for place in Italy

World Championship beckons for Caribbean champs

AFTER a sensational performance against Costa Rica on Friday night, Trinidad and Tobago will qualify for the Women’s World Volleyball Championships with a victory tonight at Sport & Physical Education Centre of the St Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies.

The five-time Caribbean championships have not dropped a single set from three matches and will have the home court advantage in the final game of the NORCECA (North, Central America and the Caribbean) round-robin playoff tournament at 6 p.m.

But they will still be the underdogs as they will be coming up against Mexico, the top-ranked team in the Central American and Caribbean region.

T&T do not have an encouraging record against the 28-ranked team in the world, but they have been getting closer and closer and were, in fact, beaten in five sets after taking the first two when they met last month in the Pan American Cup in Mexico City.

Speaking about Mexico’s comeback, Nicholson Drakes, who took over coaching duties in this tournament after being the assistant for the last few years, said: “They made adjustments last time and we didn’t. We are very confident of victory this time.”  

Mexico started yesterday with two straight-sets wins as they were on a bye Friday night.

With T&T on a bye, the Mexicans were expected to roll over Nicaragua last night.

The expected victory would set up a mouth-watering finale tonight and the winning team will become the 24th and final to qualifier for the World Championships, which will take place in Italy from September 23-October 12.

Costa Rica are the only one of the five nations involved in this playoff to have participated at the World Championships before. But they will not be involved in their third straight edition after losing the opening match of this tournament against Mexico and then going down to T&T on Friday night.

The two teams, ranked 29th and 31st in the world, usually play out pulsating five-setters, but after the lower ranked of the two roared back to snatch the first set after trailing 17-12, T&T pulled away to prevail 25-22, 25-15, 25-21.

Skipper Kelly Billingy pointed out that it was only the second time that T&T had beaten the Costa Ricans in straight sets and “it was the best game we have played in a long time.”

Krystle Esdelle, who led the team last month in the “Pan Am” Cup, had 14 kills in her game-high 15 points, which was one more than the contribution of fellow Europe-based player Channon Thompson, whose contribution was highlighted by ten kills.

Darlene Ramdin and Sinead Jack, who are both also based in Europe, chipped in with nine and eight points, respectively, while skipper Angela Lindo Willis led the way for Costa Rica with nine points.

T&T were completely dominant in kills 

(14-7) and blocked shots (12-7) in the 83-minute contest.

In the first match of the double-header, Nicaragua, who lost to T&T the night before after being on a bye on the opening night, picked up their first victory when they defeated Panama 25-19, 24-26, 25-10, 25-19 in 94 minutes.

It was the third defeat from as many matches for the Panamanians, who at No. 55 in the world, are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament.

The 46th-ranked Nicaraguans and Costa Rica will play today’s first match at 4 p.m.