Spikers will storm our shores

Seven Mile Beach will be packed with volleyball enthusiasts based here and overseas when Grand Cayman hosts the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation 2013 beach circuit opener this weekend, between 22 and 24 March.

Cayman will sport men’s and women’s teams in the tournament. Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation Tournament Director Fareed Hosein said local players should be competent against foreign opposition.

“The Cayman federation is pleased to host the NORCECA tour again for 2013,” Hosein said. “This will be the fifth year the Cayman Islands has hosted this event and our past successes has resulted in NORCECA requesting our island to kick off the 2013 beach volleyball tour. I would like the thank our sponsors, organisers and volunteers for making this all possible.

“The Cayman women will be Cristin Alexander, Jennifer Bily, Stefania Gandolfi and Jessica Wolfenden. Jessica is a very strong player, so there is a chance we could exceed past results. The male players are Richard Campbell, Philippe Deslandes, Andrew Gordon, Duncan Hamann, Ryan McGuire and Shervin Rankin. They have been training two to three times a week for the past couple of months.”

On the women’s side, Alexander and Bily are the most experienced pairing and will be eager to improve on last year’s showing, when they were knocked out in the preliminary stages. For the men, Rankin and Campbell have new teammates in Hamann and Deslandes, respectively, and they will be keen to replicate their 2012 form, when they advanced to the quarterfinals.

Hamann and Deslandes are tournament veterans and were eliminated during group play last year, alongside Cayman’s other male tandem of Gordon and Olney Thompson. McGuire is not a newcomer to the sport but is the lone fresh face on the men’s team in 2013.

As Hosein states, Cayman has hosted NORCECA action for the past four years and each time, more visiting players have made their way here to join the competition. In 2012, 42 squads came here; 2011 produced 40 teams; 24 clubs stormed these shores in 2010 and 17 sides started it all off in 2009.

For 2013, about 40 squads from 15 countries will be competing. Focus should be on powerhouse countries who have competed here before including the US, Canada and Mexico.

In 2012, Roberto Rodriguez and Erick Haddock of Puerto Rico along with Mexican ladies Bibiana Candelas and Mayra Garcia went through the tournament undefeated. The runners up were Samuel Schachter and Maverick Hatch of Canada on the men’s side and Marta Revueltas and Vanessa Virgen of Mexico for the ladies.

Earning bronze were London Olympians Joshua Binstock and Martin Reader of Canada and Puerto Rican ladies Yarleen Santiago and Yamileska Yantin.

This year, American Todd Rogers will be the featured participant. Rogers, 39, won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the 2007 FIVB World Championship and the 2010 FIVB World Tour Championship alongside former playing partner Phil Dalhausser, 33. Rogers will have a new partnership in Cayman with Ryan Doherty, 28.

Doherty, who is about 7 feet tall, is relatively new to the sport after pursuing a career as a professional baseball pitcher until 2007, when he was released from the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system.

Cayman is one of 17 NORCECA tour stops in 2013, an increase from 11 in 2012. Prize money is expected to go up to US$16,000 per event. After Cayman, action is expected to shift to the Dominican Republic (27 March to 1 April) and Guatemala (17 to 22 April).

Cayman federation president Noel Williams said expectations are high.

“A lot of hard work has gone into making these events a success, this also includes our Cayman teams, who continue to remain competitive and progress higher in the standings each year,” Williams said. “This year we expect a record number of teams and we are planning to host night games on Friday and Saturday night.

“The event is free to the public and we encourage you come out and enjoy one of the biggest sporting events in Grand Cayman.”

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