Cristin Alexander and Jennifer Bily made history for the Cayman Islands in Puerto Rico.
The duo would place fifth at the seventh stop on the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation 2012 tour. It marks the first time a Cayman team has finished in the top five at a NORCECA circuit event.
Alexander, 25, states it is a surprising achievement.
“We were surprised, we were expecting seventh but we got fifth,” Alexander said. “It’s a shock, a thrill and it’s very important. There was a lot of preparation going into it with NORCECA instructor Juan Cartagena here.
“It’s the best finish to date. The top eight is where you want to break through. We were seventh in Cuba so it’s such a big achievement for us.”
Cayman’s top beach volleyball talents advanced to the quarterfinals in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico against 11 other teams representing nine nations. They would go 3-1 during group play, beating Jamie Farley and Laurie Bachler of the US Virgin Islands 2-0 (21-8, 21-15), Diana Romero and Marcela Avalos of El Salvador 2-0 (21-18, 23-21) and Deborah Constanzo and Karla Montilla of the Dominican Republic 3-2 (21-16, 14-21, 16-14). The only loss was to Canada’s Kalia NG and Alexandra Hudson 2-0 (18-21, 20-22).
Alexander and Bily would lose in the quarters to Mexico’s Martha Revuelta and Vanessa Virgen 2-0 (8-21, 13-21). It was not until later did Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation President Noel Williams learn of the girls earning the fifth place mark.
Williams states it is a major feat for the sport locally.
“We were fourth among countries and fifth overall as Puerto Rico had two teams,” Williams said. “It’s our highest finish ever and it shows we’re reaching our full potential. Imagine if it was a full-time thing for them, the sky would be the limit.”
For Alexander and Bily, it’s the second straight quarterfinals berth on the circuit after being knocked out at the same stage by Cuban pair Kirenia Ballard and Onayamís Sinal back in June.
In Mayaguez, Cayman were also represented by the male pairing of Shervin Rankin and Richard Campbell. The duo was eliminated in the opening stages after losses to Canada’s Simon Fecteau-Botin and Cameron Wheelan (13-21, 16-21) and Aruba’s Mitchel Daniel and Eargenell De Cuba (11-21, 12-21).
Volleyball federation public relations officer Carl Brown states Cayman’s male and female teams should be commended.
“It’s significant that they’re able to come from a small country with a small talent pool,” Brown said. “People here have to work and they go up against larger countries where athletes do nothing but volleyball.
“The men are still there as contenders. The initial knockouts can be pretty tough against those countries. The men face significant challenges as far as stepping up in the rankings.”
The eighth stop of the circuit is slated to be the US city of San Diego on 26 September-1 October. From there, the tour is expected to head to Trinidad and Tobago on 10-15 October, Antigua on 17-22 October and Puerto Rico on 7-12 November.