Sunday, January 21, 2018

T&T finally take a set from Cubans


14 POINTS: Captain Krystelle Esdelle

Mark Fraser

TRINIDAD and Tobago won their very first set in the 2014 edition of the Women’s Pan American Volleyball Cup when they extended Cuba past three sets for the very first time in Mexico on Saturday.

After losing their first three matches of the tournament in straight sets, the five-time Caribbean champions were beaten 25-17, 25-18, 20-25, 25-10 by four-time champs Cuba.

T&T had never taken a set from the regional powerhouses before and just last month the Cubans had beaten them to qualify for the World Championships in September.

T&T still have a chance of getting to Italy, however, as they will host Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama in the middle of next month and the winners will secure the 24th and final place in “Worlds.”

But that chance is getting slimmer by the minute as the Mexicans will be the overwhelming favourites based on their performance in this tournament.

Two days after upsetting the Peruvians in five sets, the hosts almost allowed a two-set lead to slip before they recovered in the decider to stun the previously unbeaten Canadians 27-25, 27-25, 13-25, 14-25, 15-9 on Saturday.

The same thing almost happened to the group favourites, but two-time champs Dominican Republic recovered in time to edge Peru 25-18, 25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 15-12 in the other Group A match in Mexico City.

In Group B action in Hidalgo, two-time defending champs United States also made it four from four when the world No. 2 crushed the Costa Ricans 25-13, 25-9, 25-11 to convincingly win the five-team group and move straight into Wednesday’s semi-finals.

And with Puerto Rico on a bye, Argentina were 29-27, 25-17, 25-15 winners over Colombia in the other match in the group.

The Group A winners, determined when Dominican Republic opposed Canada when the round-robin phase of the tournament concluded last night, will also move straight into the semis.

The second and third-placed teams will contest quarterfinals tomorrow.

The champions will be crowned Thursday night in Mexico City and will qualify for the World Grand Prix in the United States in July next year.

T&T tackled Mexico in a preview of next month’s World Championship qualifier in the final match of the round-robin phase last night.

In their 82-minute contest against Cuba on Saturday, Melissa Vargas was the leading scorer with 24 points, four more than this country’s captain Krystelle Esdelle, who had led all scores with 14 points on Thursday against the Canadians and was the game’s joint leading scorer with 13 the day after against Peru.