The new Clifton Hunter High School Sports Centre in Frank Sound impressed most people.
Chief among them were the visiting teams in the 2014 North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation World Championship Men’s First Round Qualifier.
Jerry Slijngard served as head coach for Suriname, which won the tournament, and states his side enjoyed playing in the Cayman Islands.
“We were privileged to play our matches in the beautiful Cayman Islands,” Slijngard said. “There is a lot we have to be thankful for and we know the level of volleyball here will only grow.
“Our results exceeded expectations. It was also a bit of history as this was the first time we’ve won against Barbados. I’ll remember the good heart and warmth of the people on the Cayman Islands. All of the players, for example, came together after the games and that brought a camaraderie amongst the players.
“We didn’t know the strength of the Cayman Islands. This is the first time we’ve seen them play and we are positively surprised with the level of play of Cayman. This is our first time at a tournament at this level and we’re looking to go forward and advance to the next round.”
The Dutch nation would go 3-1 during the competition, culminating with a 3-2 (25-22, 18-25, 15-25, 25-20, 15-12) victory over Barbados in the first place playoff game. The Bajans also went 3-1 and were runners-up. Between them, they produced the majority of top players. Suriname’s Keven Sporkslede was named the Most Valuable Player and the Best Scorer with team-mates Dion Brunings and Raoul Bell being the Best Setter and Best Libero, respectively.
Barbados took home the awards for Best Spiker with Shawn Simpson, Best Server with Leshon Alexander and Best Digger with Sheldon Roach.
Bajan head coach Ludger Niles states he was satisfied with his team’s performance and the level of competition.
“Our goal was to qualify to the next round,” Niles said. “We’ve been playing competitive volleyball, back from the CBC, a few months ago against the likes of Trinidad. We gained experience at this level and, as I said, the goal was to qualify.
“It was a keenly contested competition and I thank Cayman as hosts. It was a nice tournament. We enjoyed the support we got from the expatriates in Cayman, they supported us well over here. This format has never been done before, it was a little strange to play two games a day. But it was a good, well-organised tournament.
“As for the facility, we’re used to playing on Taraflex tiles back home. Some of the guys complained the surface was too hard but government can add on rush tiles. There is room for improvement. It’s a new gym. I feel the government needs to emphasize this type of competition in the future.”
Only the top three teams advanced to the second round of qualification, which takes place next year. The end goal is to reach the 2014 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball World Championship in Poland.
Joining Suriname and Barbados would be Aruba, who edged out Cayman 3-2 (21-25, 25-20, 11-25, 25-16, 15-13) in the third place playoff game. The Arubans would produce the tournament’s best blocker in Mitchel Daniel and best receiver in Fransua Angela.
The Dutch nation went into the tournament level with Cayman as both ranked 29th in the NORCECA standings. In comparison, Barbados were rated 12th in the region with Suriname ranking 14th.
The qualifier would attract a number of volleyball figures within the region. Among them were Aruba Volleyball Association President Filomena Daniel Curiel and NORCECA Vice President/Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association President Mushtaque Mohammed.
Mohammed states the tournament’s presence in Cayman bodes well for the future.
“This is my first time in Cayman and I’m impressed so far,” Mohammed said. “Sports assist people in growing. We know it’s the start of a great partnership that will only continue to grow from here. I thank all the NORCECA officials and press officers Carolina Rivas and Judith Sandino for helping in this process.
“It is a privilege for our sport, especially for NORCECA, to host an FIVB World Championship Qualifier to open a sports facility. On behalf of our president, Cristobal Marte Hoffiz and recently elected FIVB President Ary Graça, we are honoured and assure you it will not be the last one.
“In 1993, at the Caribbean Championships in Trinidad, Cayman participated. That was my first introduction to the Cayman people and I’ll never forget it.”
For the record, Cayman were represented in Frank Sound by Shameel Javid Ali, Martin Bodden, Richard Campbell, Duncan Hamann, Keith Higgins, Cassim Fareed Hosein, Keeble Knight, Joebert Macasling, Ryan McGuire, Brian Purcell, Davison Ruwende and Olney ‘OT’ Thompson. Higgins doubled as head coach with Kennedy McGowan serving as team manager.
The sports centre itself provided the visitors an unrivalled playing facility in Cayman. It resembles an arena, with large steps leading up to the main entrance and a dedicated parking area. A ticket and concession booth is located outside the main entrance.
That fact would resonate with Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation President Noel Williams, who embraced the new venue.
“The Minister of Education Rolston Anglin and the Minister of Sports Mark Scotland have done so much for the community,” Williams said. “They offered for the school to be the venue. To play in a wonderful facility, I consider Rolston and Mark not only my personal friends, but special friends of volleyball as this is the first time ever that this venue is used.
“We didn’t want indoor volleyball to get left behind. We were happy to see the visiting teams and welcome them to the Cayman Islands. We welcomed back NORCECA General Secretary Nelson Ramirez, who was here for the beach tournaments. With Mushtaque, we hope it’s not his last time here.”
Both Anglin and Scotland were on hand for the qualifier’s opening ceremony. A number of other government dignitaries were on hand including the Director of Sports Collin Anglin.
Scotland stated government will continue to support volleyball in the future.
“This tournament is the first official event for the school and we commend the volleyball federation for hosting it,” Scotland said. “We’ve seen volleyball grow in leaps and bounds in the last year. Hosting a world championship qualifier is no small feat.
“It’s the result of a very dedicated, small group and government will continue to give support to the federation. Volleyball has been improving for many years but the last couple of years it has grown a lot. That growth bodes well for the future. It will continue to get support from the Ministry of Sports so that our teams can go off and compete regionally and internationally.”
It was no secret that heading into the competition, the school has cost somewhere in the region of $100 million to build and had been under construction for about three years. A glimpse of the campus revealed where the money went with sleek architecture and phenomenal facilities, like an outdoor pool complete with wheelchair access, on display.
Rolston Anglin states government was eager to showcase the sports centre and the school.
“I hoped it lived up to its billing as a wonderful tournament for them, the visitors,” Anglin said. “We pulled out all the stops to make it happen. The school just opened to students five weeks ago and we didn’t get chance to establish proper protocol.
“We hope it meets and exceeds expectations. We hope it’s the first of many events for Cayman. Volleyball is a sport on the rise, making things happen. The government is very interested in ensuring Cayman establishes its place in regional sports.
“For volleyball, the federation and countless other sports agencies, I see it as not just a competition. It encourages a spirit of cooperation, which is good for school children and the school system.”