National volleyballers showed heart against stronger opposition

Stacy-Ann Kelly spikes one against Guadeloupe.

Before they stepped on the court for three FIVB World Championship qualifying matches, the women representing the Cayman Islands were told to show heart and effort against teams stronger than them. At the end of the campaign, the team’s head coach said based on their performance, he’s happy despite going winless.

The Cayman Islands, entering as the 12th ranked team in the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) lost to Bonaire, Bahamas and eventual group winners – Guadeloupe in the qualifiers played at the Clifton Hunter High School gym on 12 and 13 November, without winning a set in any of the matches.

Stefania Gandolfi was one of Cayman's better performers.

Stefania Gandolfi was one of Cayman’s better performers.

Nonetheless, head coach Mark Ray said he was pleased. “I told them at the beginning of the tournament the main thing I want from them is heart and effort. If we give that and we are beaten, I’m happy because I see that you’ve tried your best and that’s all that I can ask as a head coach,” he said in an interview with at the end of the tournament.

In their first outing, Cayman fell to Bonaire 12-25, 15-25 and 21-25 in what turned out to be their best shot at a victory. Returning to the court the next morning, another straight sets defeat came at the hands of Bahamas – 10-25, 12-25. In their final match, Cayman started off strong, leading 9-7 in the first set against Guadeloupe but then lost 10 consecutive points. Guadeloupe went on for the easy win 25-14, 25-7 and 25-16.

Chanté Smith-Johnson goes up high.

Chanté Smith-Johnson goes up high.

“As the games went on, we grew from strength to strength in terms of our experience and our understanding of what it takes to compete at this level,” Ray said.

“The ladies gave it their all and within the understanding that we were the shortest team, the most inexperienced team – I think when you look at that, you can consider that we gave the most heart,” the coach added. “We played with heart and the experience served them well.”

The Cayman Islands women’s team had been pulled together less than three months ago when they started training for the competition under the watchful eyes of Ray and assistant coach, Troy Alleyne of First Baptist Volleyball Club.

Despite the heavy defeats, the head coach described the experience as being invaluable to the team members.

The team's enthusiasm did not dip.

The team’s enthusiasm did not dip.

“It really helps them to understand what it takes to compete at this level and the level above that. When you see them it’s one thing but to play against them, you also understand how quickly they move on the court…and the fact that you can’t give them easy balls because they are going to come back at you. So, seeing them in person is great. Playing against them is even better,” Ray said.

Despite the heavy defeats, the enthusiasm of the team’s 3-4-5 chants did not subside as they kept their energy up, even against the vastly superior team from the French Caribbean.

Guadeloupe was undefeated and finished first to move on to the next round, along with Bahamas, which was second after only one loss (to Guadeloupe). Bonaire, which picked up its only win against the hosts, was third, and Cayman was fourth.

Representing the Cayman Islands were: Taylor Burrowes, Chlouie Gaetos, Stefania Gandolfi, Trisha Espinal Geurrero, Stephanie Jackson, Stacy-Ann Kelly, Sarah Manoy, Brenda Mascarenhas, Kathy Miller, Chanté Smith-Johnson, Jossanah Smith, and Amanda Wong. Ileann Powery was also selected to play but had to watch from the stands due to injury.

Photo courtesy: CIVF

Photo courtesy: CIVF


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