Falcons, Upsetters win Cayman Islands national championships

Last Saturday Cayman’s top volleyball teams and their fans gathered at the UCCI gym for the 2007 national championships.

National champs!

National champs! The Arsenal Falcons celebrate their big victory. CIVF President Noel Williams is at right.

Leading up to that night, all eight finalists fought hard throughout the national league to earn a chance to be the champions and the atmosphere within the gym vibrated with anticipation and excitement. Although high-level volleyball was expected and delivered, few would have predicted the clean sweep by the Wendys Filipino teams, who claimed both the Male and Female Division B titles. In a stranger twist, in Division A both the Fulcrum Thundercats and their male team Kayotics would be lose their championship bids in identical fashion – 3 sets to 1.

To begin each game, all teams were formally introduced and inspected by Joel Francis of the Ministry of Sports, CIVF President Noel Williams and Vice President Keith Higgins.

CIVF President Noel Williams praised Dr. Hassan Syed and UCCI, which hosted the league games and the finals for their unwavering support. Williams also thanked the Minister for Sports, Hon. Alden McLaughlin and the Ministry staff whose support was critical in reinstating the 2006 national volleyball league. Williams also thanked CIVF’s generous sponsors: Fosters Food Fair, Andy’s Rent a Car, CUC, Coconut Car Rental and Cable & Wireless and the 23 participating teams.

The indomitable Wendys Filipino Women opened the first match against the UBS Ladies. Determined not to falter at the finish, Wendys kept a steady offensive and served well over two straight sets 25-12, 25-23 for a convincing win of the match and the Division B title.

The second fixture put the Wendys Filipino Men against the Schoolers. Seemingly inspired by the success of their female counterparts moments before, the Wendys Filipino Men unleashed their entire arsenal on the Schoolers, including quick, sharp tandem attacks. The Schoolers Men managed to answer with intermittent plays but were ultimately overcome by the Wendys Men 25-18, 25-23.

The Division A action opened with Fulcrum Thundercats slated to battle the aptly-named Upsetters for the top place in the national league. Despite a long lay-off, the Upsetters came out swinging hard and promptly jumped to an 8 point lead in the opening set as the Thundercats struggled to find their rhythm. Unfortunately the Thundercats’ play in that first set fixed the tone for the entire game. While the Cats rallied to take the second set, the Upsetters kept the pressure on with strong serves and strong attacks while the Cats struggled with unforced errors in passing and service. Upsetters coach Michael McLaughlin also made strategic adjustments since his team’s previous loss against the Cats. In particular, McLaughlin ensured his strongest middle blocker Dara Perriera double-teamed Cats’ main hitter Krista Jorch. With Rose Wright blistering the Cats with hard smashes from high outside, Upsetters came from behind to take the fourth set and the title, erupting into celebration as the last ball fell to the floor.

Captain of the Thundercats Melanie McLaughlin noted that while the Thundercats were disappointed with their play in the final game the Cats were proud of their overall performance in the league which earned them a second-place finish.

CIVF President Noel Williams and Joel Francis of the Ministry of Sports presented the trophy to the ecstatic Upsetters, the 2007 Womens National Volleyball Champions.

As the court cleared, the top mens teams began warming up for the biggest grudge match of the evening: Arsenal Falcons versus Kayotics.

With both teams evenly matched in terms of offensive ability, neither team was a clear favorite. Olney ‘OT’ Thompson and the Falcons were first to draw ‘blood’ crushing the ball over Kayotics’ block and into the floor, drawing wild cheering from fans. Even after 4 hours of volleyball excitement so far that day, it was quite clear that even more hard-hitting action was coming and the fans remained firmly planted in their seats to see Kayotics’ response. Kayotics jumped into a full throttle attack and Daniel Pattico delivered the reply with a searing smash into Falcons’ back court. With that the battle lines were clearly drawn: this was all-out war.

For four sets, the Kayotics and Falcons pummeled each other. Shervin Rankin and Pattico blistered Falcons from outside while OT and Berro Bolbus lead the Falcons’ explosive attacks. Both teams also have strong middle blockers as offensive threats. Andrew Gordon and Peter Williams repelled several big attacks by the Falcons ‘roofing’ the hits at the net. Kennedy McGowan and Brian ‘Miguel’ Purcell were happy to return the favour by throwing up big double blocks on Kayotics. However Daniel Pattico continued to vex the Falcons’ blockers with scorching hits which physically flattened two Falcons players on multiple occassions. Despite their ability to stand offensively with their opponent, Kayotics were ultimately let down by simple defensive lapses which allowed Falcons to maintain the 2-point margin it needed to take the title 25-20, 25-18, 22-25 and 25-21.

Just past midnight, the victorious Arsenal Falcons took the floor to collect their Championship trophy. While their opponents will be left to dream of revenge next season, the Arsenal Falcons no doubt went to sleep with a special smile from being National Mens Champions.

On behalf of all 23 teams and CIVF, President Noel Williams expressed sincerest thanks to the team sponsors Fulcrum Fund, Atlantis Submarines, Weslyan School, Boatswains Beach, RMS, UCCI, UBS, Maples & Calder, Walkers, Admiral Management Ltd, Wendys and Lee’s Office Products.

Williams then revealed CIVF plans for an Awards Night in March to show appreciation to the players, team sponsors, league sponsors, Ministry of Sports, and UCCI.