Friday, February 23, 2018

T&T women in Pan Am Cup

TRINIDAD and Tobago will oppose two-time champions Dominican Republic when the Women’s Pan American Volleyball Cup serves off in Mexico today. The two teams clash at 5 p.m. in the second of Group A matches in Mexico City.

Canada will square off with Peru two hours earlier and the triple-header will conclude with the host country doing battle against Cuba at 7 p.m. Group B action is taking place in the city of Hidalgo, starting with Brazil and Costa Rica taking the floor at 3 p.m. Two hours later Colombia will tackle the US and Argentina and Puerto Rico will complete the schedule from 7 p.m.

The winners of the round-robin groups will advance directly into the semifinals next week Wednesday, while the runners-up and third-placed teams will contest quarterfinals the day before. The champions will be crowned next Thursday night in Mexico City and will qualify for the World Grand Prix in the United States in July next year.

The US are attempting to become the first country to complete a hat-trick of gold medals in this tournament, which inaugurated in 2002. And if the second-ranked team in the world accomplishes the feat they will join Cuba as the only four-time winners.

The task will be extremely difficult as world No. 1 Brazil are also gunning for the fourth crown and the Dominican Republic (No. 8) are ranked in the top ten in the world as well. Peru (No. 15), Puerto Rico (No. 17), Argentina (No. 18) and Canada (No.20) are ranked in the top 20, but the Cubans have been struggling recently and have slipped to 21st in the world.

Colombia and Costa Rica are ranked jointly at No. 29, one place behind Mexico and two ahead of T&T, the lowest ranked team in the tournament. The five-time Caribbean champions will oppose Canada at 5 p.m. tomorrow, Peru at 3 p.m. on Friday, Cuba at the same time on Saturday and conclude their round-robin campaign at seven o’clock the following night against hosts Mexico.

Costa Rica, Mexico and T&T will be competing along with Nicaragua and Panama in the middle of next month down here and the winning team will secure the 24th and final place in the World Championships in Italy from September 23. The five countries all finished runners-up in NORCECA (North, Central America and the Caribbean) third round qualifying tournaments last month.

After passing on the baton a few years ago, Kelly Billingy returned to lead the team, which finished second to their hosts in Cuba, but Krystelle Esdelle will be back as captain today.

Fellow Europe-based players Darlene Ramdin, Channon Thompson and last year’s Trinidad and Tobago Volleyball Federation’s Player of the Year Sinead Jack will also be present again. In fact this team is comprised of all players who were in Cuba.