TIGHT DEFENCE: Barbadian Shari Leacock (left) attempts to block an attempted spike from Jenae Saunders (right, foreground) during the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championships Thursday night at the Jean Pierre Complex. The six-time cha

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 T&T reach 5th straight CAZOVA final

By \\\\\ Shammi Kowlessar

OVERWHELMING title favourites Trinidad and Tobago were made to work extremely hard to reach their fifth consecutive title match in the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championship Thursday night at Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.

The exciting contest actually ended at 12.44 a.m. yesterday when a Jamaican defender failed to negotiate a Darlene Ramdin spike.

T&T should have prevailed about 40 minutes earlier when they reached within a point of completing a hat-trick of straight-set victories in the tournament at 24-22. But the Jamaicans saved the two match points and a couple others on their way to clinching the longest and most exciting set of the tournament 34-32 in an hour.

With the momentum on their side, the visitors were in front for the most of the fourth and looked virtually certain to force a decider when they led 22-19.

T&T then pulled one back before powerhouse Channon Thompson virtually served Jamaica off the court.

The France-based youngster pounded two consecutive aces to level proceedings and then gave her team the lead when Jamaica libero Cherie Thompson failed to handle another booming serve.

It looked very easy at the start when T&T took a one-sided opening set in 20 minutes, but it then turned into a war and the 25-12, 25-21, 32-34, 25-23 triumph was eventually achieved in 130 minutes.

Thompson had been the game’s leading scorer when T&T whipped Barbados and Suriname earlier in the week, but that was not the case on this occasion.

Her 16 points were three less than the tally of fellow Europe-based 20-year-old Sinead Jack, who had 14 kills and three blocked-shots. Ramdin, another Europe-based player, had 12 kills in her 13 points, the same amount as Jamaican top-scorer Simone Asque.

The Jamaicans had the edge in blocks (13-10) and committed less errors (35-41), but their opponents were completely dominant in kills (54-34) and service points won (9-2).

T&T concluded their round-robin campaign against Bahamas last night, but the result was only academic as, after three victories from as many matches, they are assured of a place in tomorrow’s final and will be attempting their fifth consecutive gold medal in the biennial tournament from 6 p.m.

The Jamaicans are currently in pole position to secure the other place in the final. They have beaten both Suriname and Bahamas and will start favourites when they conclude their round-robin campaign from 2 p.m. today against Barbados.

The Bajans, who have won this tournament a record six times, have only prevailed once this week and were stunned 22-25, 25-17, 27-25, 25-19 by Suriname in the first of four matches on yesterday’s programme.

After edging Jamaica 23-25, 25-18, 25-23, 20-25, 15-12 on Thursday night, the men of Curacao defeated Suriname 25-19; 25-15; 19-25; 25-14 in yesterday’s first quarterfinal just before press time. T&T and Jamaica were on court right after in the second.

Nine-time champs Barbados beat 2010 champs T&T in four sets on Wednesday night to top Group B and move straight into today’s semifinals, along with defending champs Bahamas, who finished on top of Group A. The semis are scheduled for 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and the final will take place at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

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