The Cayman Islands made history on iconic Seven Mile Beach.
For the first time ever, the national men’s and women’s beach volleyball teams advanced past the first stage of Olympic qualification. One man overjoyed at the result is Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation President Noel Williams.
“Words can’t describe how I feel,” Williams said. “I’m happy. The tournament was excellent and having Cayman win fifth place and two of our teams advance is icing on the cake. It’s definitely history and the best thing that could have ever happened. I’m so proud of the Cayman teams and I’m pleased with them.”
Richard Campbell and Shervin Rankin would take the men to victory alongside Olney ‘OT’ Thompson and Philippe Deslandes. The women featured Cristin Alexander and Jennifer ‘JB’ Bily along with Taylor Burrowes and Stefania Gandolfi. Both teams would need dramatic victories on Sunday at Public Beach in the North American, Central American and Caribbean volleyball federation Continental Cup.
Campbell and Rankin would beat out St. Lucia’s Julian Bisette and Dayne Williams 15-9 in the third set tiebreaker (called the golden set). Early on in the day Thompson and Deslandes would lose their game to Bisette and Williams 25-27, 21-17, 15-6. Campbell and Rankin would force the tiebreaker with a 21-15, 21-15 victory over Gillan Octave and Augustin Faulkner.
Campbell, 27, had a breakout performance in both contests. The George Town native states it was tough but an incredible achievement.
“Flipping awesome, those are the only two words that come to mind,” Campbell said. “It was definitely tough. Their guys were really tall like 6ft 6in or so. It was special to win. We worked hard and deserved to qualify. This is my first NORCECA event and even though it was a fifth place match, we knew it represented the final qualifying spot.
“It was for the better I was playing with the legend in Shervin. Some would say I carried him in some of our games.”
Alexander and Bily also had to battle back against St. Kitts and Nevis. They took down Brenda Allen and Shanicia Dyer 17-15 in the golden set after defeating Andrea Liburd and Antoinette Henry 21-14, 21-13. Burrowes and Gandolfi would lose to Allen and Dyer in the first set 21-17, 6-21, 13-15.
The victory was probably the most relieving for Alexander. Last year’s Miss Cayman made a number of unforced errors that saw her side surrender a six-point lead. She states she battled self-doubt.
“We started strong and confident,” Alexander said. “We made a couple of mistakes but we made shots. In that golden set I made a couple of errors and there was a moment of doubt as to being able to do it.
“I’m ecstatic about going forward to the next round. It’s the first time, it’s history. There’s hope for us. Thank you to all the fans who came out to support us. All of the credit goes to them because they really helped out.”
Cayman moves on to the next qualifier for the 2012 London Olympics in the New Year. A number of teams will join them such as Trinidad and Tobago, who saw its male and female squads go through. In fact Christian Francois and Sean Morrison with Fabien Whitfield and Simon Blake would earn first place in the men’s group while Pauline Woodroffe and Malika Charles with Ayana Dyette and Elki Phillips would place second in the women’s category.
Bahamas (with Muller Petit and Renaldo Knowles alongside Byron Ferguson and Princtanique Wilson) were second for the men and Barbados (featuring Anthazia Mason and Shari Matthews with Sharon Bovell and Mona Crawford) were the female runners-up. Jamaica (sporting Andre McLean and Donovan Richards with Wayne Scott and Mark Lewis) was third for the men while Curacao (fielding Kionna Gregorious and Cristal Gregorius with Samira Luis and Christine Anthony) placed third for the ladies.
Fourth place went to St. Kitts (sporting Shawn Seabrookes and St. Clair Hodge with Carl Collins and Kenmoroy Percival) for the men and Jamaica (with Cherine Richards and Cheryl Daley alongside Nardarake Hutchinson and Cherie Thompson) for the women.
A total of 12 Caribbean countries and 40 teams took part in the Continental Cup.