TRINIDAD and Tobago will tackle regional powerhouses Cuba in Cuba today for a place in the Women’s World Volleyball Championships.
The two teams clashed yesterday in a preview of the final when they met to determine the Group Q winners in the third round of NORCECA (North, Central America and the Caribbean) qualifying for the World Championships in Italy from September 23.
The result was not available by press time, but it would have only been useful for academic purposes as the team which prevails today will be the one which qualifies for “Worlds.”
No team from the English-speaking Caribbean has ever qualified for a World Championship in the sport and T&T have never beaten Cuba.
But the loser of today’s match will have another chance of booking tickets to Italy as the runner-up of all five groups contesting third round qualifying events will square off from June 2-9 in Trinidad for the fifth and final NORCECA spot in the World Championships.
After beating Haiti in four sets in the first match of this group on Wednesday, T&T made certain of at least a second-place finish when they whipped Curacao 25-15, 22-25, 25-9, 15-18 the day after.
Jalicia Ross-Kydd, who tied with former captain Krystle Esdelle for a game-high 12 points against the Haitians, was in tremendous form as she scored a tournament-high 26. The left-handed Esdelle chipped in with 12, one less than fellow European-based player Sinead Jack, last year’s Trinidad and Tobago Volleyball Federation’s Player of the Year.
The victory was a perfect birthday present for Kelly Billingy, who turned 28 years old on Thursday. The former overseas-based player, who had scored ten points the day before, has been a member of the national team for over ten years and is leading the squad for the first time since she passed on the baton a few years ago.
The Cubans whipped Haiti 25-13, 25-12, 25-14 on Thursday, after brushing aside Curacao 25-5, 25-17, 25-18 on the day before.
T&T men are also involved in the third round of qualifying for “Worlds” and they came up against Costa Rica when Group Q action served off in Canada yesterday. Panama and the hosts are the other teams in the group and the winner will qualify for the World Championships from August 20.
However the runners-up will have another chance to book tickets to Poland as the second-placed teams in the third round of qualifying in all four groups will battle for the fifth and final NORCECA place in the middle of July in either Mexico or Rico.