AFTER prevailing for the second night in succession at the Sport & Physical Education Centre of the University of the West Indies on Thursday night, Trinidad and Tobago are now just two victories away from a place in the Women’s World Volleyball Championships.
However their final two opponents in the NORCECA (North, Central America and the Caribbean) Playoff Tournament are by far the toughest. The five-time Caribbean champions faced Costa Rica after press time last night and, following a bye tonight, will oppose Mexico in the final match of the round-robin tournament at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
The team which comes out on top in the five-nation competition will secure the 24th and final place in the World Championships, which will be staged in Italy from September 23-October 12. After beating Panama when the tournament served off on Wednesday night, T&T were triumphant in straight sets again when they whipped Nicaragua 26-24, 25-17, 25-13 on Thursday night.
T&T came on very strong towards the end of the first two sets against opponents who were starting their campaign after being on a bye on Wednesday night. T&T won four straight points to tie the score at 20-all in the first set and then took the last three, beginning at 23-24 when they saved a set point.
And after the two teams were deadlocked at 17-all in the second, the hosts won eight of the last ten points to get to within a set of victory. This country’s girls flew out of the block by taking the first four points of the third and turned the set into a procession of breath-taking spikes and blocked shots.
Europe-based 20-year-olds Channon Thompson and Sinead Jack led the way for the winners with 16 and 14 points, respectively, while Darlene Ramdin, who is also based in Europe, chipped in with 11 in the 73-minute contest.
Ten of Ramdin’s points were achieved by kills, while Thompson had also had ten kills, along with five-blocked shots, two less than the amount blocked by last year’s Trinidad and Tobago Volleyball Federation’s Player of the Year Jack.
In the first match of the double header, Mexico also won in straight sets for the second straight night.
The tournament favourites brushed aside Panama 25-13, 25-15, 25-20 after they had beaten Costa Rica with surprising ease (25-14, 25-17, 25-11) in the first match of the tournament the night before.
The Mexicans are the top-ranked team in the tournament, but at No. 28 in the world, they are just one place higher on the computer than Costa Rica and three in front of T&T.
Costa Rica is the only country in this tournament to have competed in the World Championships and they have still a shot to make their third appearance if they win their remaining two matches (including against T&T last night) and T&T beat Mexico tomorrow night.
The hosts have got to be confident of becoming the smallest country to qualify for “Worlds” as they beat Costa Rica in five sets in their last meeting over a year ago and failed to close out Mexico in Mexico City last month after winning the first two sets of their clash in the Pan American Cup.
Costa Rica will oppose the 55th-ranked Panama at 6 p.m. today and Mexico will do battle with Nicaragua, ranked 46th in the world, two hours after.