We served our neighbours notice

Cayman is ranked in the top ten for beach volleyball among its regional neighbours.

The male teams are currently ranked fifth on the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation 2012 tour while the women are seventh. Both took part in the fourth staging of the NORCECA tour opener last weekend on Grand Cayman’s Public Beach.

For Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation board member and public relations officer Carl Brown, that status is well deserved.

“The whole Cayman national team structure has been victorious,” Brown said. “In terms of performance, regional and international ascendance, sharpening skills and competing with stronger countries, we have upped our games.

“From reaching the NORCECA Continental Cup semi-finals this year, the first time we have ever did that, we know by performing on this stage that we are not less than anyone. We’re coming up, we give ourselves another two years to compete with Mexico and Puerto Rico, who are really good.

“With the winning of international games duties, we are catering to the next generation of players. Due to our strides the last five years, we are building our success story in a small island with a small talent pool.”

Representing Cayman on home soil were Shervin Rankin and Richard Campbell, Philippe Deslandes and Duncan Hamann, Andrew Gordon and Olney ‘OT’ Thompson with Jennifer Bily and Cristin Alexander as the lone females.

Campbell and Rankin put Cayman through to the quarterfinals after finishing second in Pool A behind eventual winners Roberto Rodriguez and Erick Haddock of Puerto Rico. From there, they lost to Dominican Republic youngsters German Recio and Luis Adames.

Deslandes and Hamann along with Gordon and Thompson were eliminated during group play. Bily and Alexander were knocked out in the preliminary stages by El Salvador’s Diana Romero and Marcela Avalos.

Gordon, 37, states it was a good experience playing for Cayman.

“I played with Duncan for the second NORCECA opener here in 2010,” Gordon said. “OT and I are a very new combo and it was our first tournament together at this level. It’s a winning team once we spend time together. I thought it was a great combination but we started playing together late, we came together too late in our games.

“There were great teams out there. We have great chemistry, it’s an honour to play with him and it’s too bad we couldn’t get far.”

Aside from a high ranking, two local players earned financial compensation as Rankin and Campbell took home US$330. Together they helped Cayman’s men earn 110 team points and sit just behind the US (140 points), the Dominican Republic (160 points), Canada (180 points) and Puerto Rico (200 points). The ladies have 80 points and are behind the likes of El Salvador (100 points), Guatemala (110 points), Canada (140 points), the US (160 points), Puerto Rico (180 points) and Mexico (200 points).

Puerto Rico’s men and the Mexican female duo of Bibiana Candelas and Mayra Garcia went through last weekend undefeated. They earned gold medals along with a US$1,700 cash prize. Male runners-up Samuel Schachter and Maverick Hatch of Canada and female runners-up Marta Revueltas and Vanessa Virgen of Mexico took home silver and US$1,000. Bronze and a US$750 prize went to Canada’s Joshua Binstock (the 2011 champion) and Martin Reader for the men and Puerto Rico’s Yarleen Santiago and Yamileska Yantin for the women.

Brown states the play of Rankin, 38, and Thompson, 44, stood out.

“OT and Shervin have been on the frontline longer than is usual. It speaks to the support of the Cayman people and their talent level. OT turned down going pro in Germany years ago, which was a good thing for us (as a country). He’s still performing at a high level and he’s super talented, which is indicative of the entire Cayman team.”

Most of the players are slated to be in Guatemala this weekend, 30-31 March, for the second stop on the NORCECA tour. The next two stops are in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic (6-8 April) and Miami, Florida (either 4-6 May or 12-14 July).