Puerto Rico and Mexico dominate

The US and Canada came here as heavy favourites but a pair of Spanish-speaking teams left with beach volleyball kudos.

Puerto Rico and Mexico won the fourth staging of the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation tour opener on Grand Cayman’s Public Beach.

Roberto Rodriguez and Erick Haddock of Puerto Rico claimed the men’s gold medal with a 2-0 (21-19, 21-15) victory over Canada’s Samuel Schachter and Maverick Hatch. The Puerto Ricans, who are first-time team-mates, would go through last weekend’s tournament undefeated by winning Pool A during group play ahead of Cayman’s male pairings of Shervin Rankin and Richard Campbell along with Philippe Deslandes and Duncan Hamann.

From there the Puerto Ricans would beat El Salvador’s Luis Morales and Ovidio Quintanilla 2-0 (21-12, 21-12) and down Canada’s Joshua Binstock (the 2011 champion) and Martin Reader in the semi-finals 2-1 (21-16, 20-22, 15-12).

Rodriguez, last year’s runner up, stated the victory was important for his country.

“It feels wonderful to win,” Rodriguez said. “Puerto Rico won two silver medals in the past here in Cayman and I’m proud to take home the gold.”

Canada would claim silver and bronze as Binstock and Reader defeated German Recio and Luis Adames of the Dominican Republic 2-1 (18-21, 21-15, 15-11) in the third-place match.

On the women’s side, it was a clean sweep for Mexico as they took the gold and silver medals. Both teams would face off in the final with Bibiana Candelas and Mayra Garcia defeating Marta Revueltas and Vanessa Virgen 2-0 (21-6, 21-19).

Candelas stated the victory was a good way to start the 2012 season.

“I’m excited to play here and the year is beginning great,” Candelas said. “This will motivate us to work even harder and it was wonderful that Mexico made it to the finals with both teams.”

Candelas and Garcia dominated the competition as they went undefeated. They beat Revueltas and Virgen in the earlier stages 2-0 (21-17, 21-13), Canada’s Jamie Broder and Victoria Altomare 2-0 (21-1, 21-16) and Puerto Rico’s Yarleen Santiago and Yamileska Yantin 2-0 (21-17, 21-11) in the semis.

The Puerto Rican women would earn the bronze by defeating Jennifer Snyder and Heather Hughes of the US 2-0 (21-16, 21-19).

For the record, Cayman had a good showing as host nation. Rankin and Campbell put the country through to the quarterfinals before losing to the Dominican Republic youngsters. The other male tandems of Philippe Deslandes and Duncan Hamann along with Andrew Gordon and Olney Thompson were eliminated during group play. The lady pair of Jennifer Bily and Cristin Alexander were knocked out in the preliminary stages by El Salvador.

NORCECA Beach Volleyball President and technical director for the Cayman tournament Arnaldo Sanchez stated the Cayman Islands are a popular stop on the tour.

“The NORCECA circuit continues growing and beach volleyball is becoming more and more popular in the region, especially after the Continental Cup and the chance to participate for many countries,” Sanchez said.

“The Cayman Islands event was the first tournament of the year and the organizers make improvements every year. This is one of the best stops and one spectacular scene with a lot of fans.”