TRINIDAD and Tobago will tackle Haiti in the opening match in Group Q when the third round of NORCECA (North, Central America and the Caribbean) qualifying for the Women’s World Volleyball Championship serves off in Cuba today.
The contest is scheduled for 3 p.m. and Cuba and Curacao, the other two teams in the group, will square off in the other match of the double header two hours later.
The winner of the tournament will qualify for the World Championships, but the runner-up will have another chance to book tickets to Italy for the tournament, which serves off on September 23.
Qualifying events are also taking place in Canada, Puerto Rico and the United States this week and in Puerto Rico next week and the second-placed teams in all five groups will do battle in a tournament in Trinidad from June 2-9 for another place.
T&T will oppose Curacao tomorrow and conclude their round-robin campaign against regional powerhouses Cuba on Friday.
The top two teams will then square off for a place in the World Championships when the tournament concludes on Saturday.
This country’s women are four-time defending Caribbean champions and are hoping to upset the Cubans with dangerous players like Kelly Billingy and the overseas-based Sinead Jack, last year’s Trinidad and Tobago Volleyball Federation Player of the Year, Channon Thompson, Darlene Ramdin and Krystle Esdelle.
T&T finished runners-up at this hurdle to get a last chance of qualifying for the World Championships in Japan four years ago, but placed fourth and last in the runners-up tournament.
No team from the English-speaking Caribbean has ever qualified for the World Championships. But Billingy, who is back as captain after passing the baton a few years ago, feels that history could be created this week and she pointed out that the Cubans “are in a rebuilding stage and we will go into that match quietly confident of our chances.”
Curacao and Haiti are long shots, but Billingy, who has been a member of the national team for well over a decade, stated that they should still be respected.
T&T’s men are also on the verge of history and their third round qualifying tournament will begin on Friday in Canada and will also involve Costa Rica, Panama and the host country.
The winners will advance to the “Worlds” in Poland at the end of August, but the runners-up of this group and the other three will play for another spot in the middle of July in either Mexico or Puerto Rico.