Visiting refs love how we host

Cayman’s recent international tournament not only attracted top players but world-class beach volleyball officials.

Three International Volleyball Federation referees were part of the officiating crew for fourth staging of the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation tour opener on Grand Cayman’s Public Beach.

Two Americans in Dan Apol and Keith Murless joined Puerto Rican Carlos Rivera in leading a crew of about eight match officials, which included Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation tournament director Fareed Hosein. Apol states Cayman is an ideal location.

“It’s a beautiful place and I’m really fortunate to have worked here,” Apol said. “It was my first time here and I was really satisfied with it. It’s very hot, considering I was skiing 10 days before at my home in Denver. I experienced the whole Tebowmania there. While (Tim) Tebow inspired the team, the Denver Broncos got lucky to win with him.

“I’ve never seen the Cayman teams before but they are very athletic. They will be good in time. From seeing all three of the men’s teams, Cayman has a good programme going here.”

The international refs would see Roberto Rodriguez and Erick Haddock of Puerto Rico along with Mexican ladies Bibiana Candelas and Mayra Garcia go through the tournament 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.

Cayman had a good showing as host nation. Shervin Rankin and Richard Campbell advanced to the quarterfinals, after finishing second in Pool A behind Puerto Rico, before losing to the Dominican Republic. 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.

Murless, who is from North Carolina, states it was great to see all of the teams compete.

“I was born on the Duke University campus and I’m a third-generation Blue Devil,” Murless said. “It was fantastic to be here as it was a great, well-run tournament. The players were skillful yet enjoying the sport. It was wonderful to be part of a tournament like that.”

In all, about 42 teams representing 16 countries participated. Most went on to Guatemala last weekend for the second stop on the tour. Action continues in multiple Spanish-speaking countries heading into the summer with stops in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic on 6-8 April, Colima, Mexico on 11-13 May and Varadero, Cuba on 8-10 June.

Apol, who often worked the Cayman tournament alongside Canadian Chris Torr, states he will make numerous stops, including the 2012 London Olympics.

“I worked with Chris before at the 2007 Pan-Am Games. We did a junior tournament in Atlanta last week and we’re heading to Brazil, Shanghai and Rome.

“This is my job as an FIVB international referee. We work on the Swatch FIVB World Tour and there are seven stops including London. I’ll be getting plenty of flyer miles this summer. London is a good honour and I’m excited to do it. It’s a fun tournament with a lot of pressure but it will be good I think.”

The Olympic journey figures to be a long one for the players and referees alike. Aside from tour obligations, refs will be called to Nayarit, Mexico on 19-23 June for the NORCECA Continental Cup finals. Male and female teams from Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico will vie for a London 2012 berth.

The Olympics will feature 23 teams competing alongside host nation Great Britain. Some 16 sides can qualify through a top Olympic ranking as of 17 June and two squads can make it through the World Cup finals at the end of June.

Nevertheless, Cayman organizers, like volleyball federation president Noel Williams, are grateful for the presence of top referees such as Ryan McDowell (who was here last year).

“This was another success for the federation and the feedback from the fans, players and NORCECA officials was tremendous,” Williams said. “I would like to thank all those involved in helping put on this event, especially Fareed, site coordinator Carl Brenton and volunteer coordinator Kelly Watson.”

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