Williams: We set standard as hosts

The region’s biggest volleyball tournament figures to launch in Cayman after all. 

Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic was initially listed as the opening stage for this year’s North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation Beach Volleyball Circuit on April 16-21. The Cayman Islands was slated to be the second stop later that month. But with the status of the Boca Chica tournament unclear, Cayman figures to be elevated back into its usual opener position. 

Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation president Noel Williams states the scheduling quirk is by design. 

“We made the decision to host at a different time,” Williams said. “Cayman is considered one of the best hosts. We’re an example to the others, and people plan around Cayman. We didn’t pick March this year because it’s a busy time and we wanted to make it easier for people to come in, get hotels and so forth. We’re trying it in April, and people should be able to come in and see the tournament easier.” 

According to the most recent NORCECA tour schedule, Cayman is slated to host the competition April 25-28, with visiting teams expected to arrive from April 23. The Dominican Republic – the home country for the confederation – gets a second shot at staging the circuit this summer. The small seaside community of Juan Dolio is expected to serve as the ninth stop on July 30-Aug. 4. 

The competition will run until November with more than a dozen legs around the region. 

Cayman first hosted the NORCECA circuit opener in 2009, and over the years there has been increasing numbers of teams and players. There is also a history of local success in the competition as last year the female tandem of Cristin Alexander and Jessica Wolfenden finished tied for eighth in the final standings. Local men – such as Shervin Rankin and Olney Thompson – were 16th out of 24 countries. 

Thanks to NORCECA’s continued presence here, volleyball has become a major part of Cayman’s sports tourism portfolio. The expanding field of overseas competitors and the spike in business for tourism-related industries normally results in a significant boost to the local economy.  

For 2014, NORCECA’s relationship with Cayman will extend to a stage of the Continental Cup – a qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – being held here. The first round of the competition takes place in Cayman July 25-27 and features Group A for the women and Group H for the men. 

Williams says the Continental Cup only adds to Cayman’s reputation within the region. 

“It’s a totally different tournament than the NORCECA one with less teams. To hold two big volleyball tournaments is a big thing for us. In regards to the Cayman teams for that, I’m very confident that with sufficient training and Cayman’s support, both the men and women can qualify. I really think so. Once people show up to rally them, we can do well.” 

NORCECA will not be the only avenue through which local volleyball will shine this year. Cayman will be one of 16 countries taking part – with male and female teams – at the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, in November. 

Shervin-Rankin-S

Shervin Rankin played for the men’s team. – PHOTOS: MATTHEW YATES

Jessica-Wolfenden-S

Jessica Wolfenden, with the ball, helped the ladies to a top-10 finish.