Spikers set for region’s best

Local volleyball is showcasing some of its best players on the beach. 

The Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation has announced the eight players representing Cayman for the opening stage of the 2014 North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation Beach Volleyball Circuit. Taking place at Public Beach on April 25-27, the competition will host two women’s and two men’s teams. Jessica Wolfenden and Cristin Alexander team up for the ladies alongside newcomers Chante Smith-Johnson and Ileann Powery. The men’s duos are Shervin Rankin and Richard Campbell with Olney Thompson and Philippe Deslandes. 

Tournament director Fareed Hosein said those players will be part of another great spectacle. 

“This marks the seventh NORCECA beach volleyball tournament that the federation will be hosting,” Hosein said. “Every year the event has gotten bigger and better, and Cuba is sending teams for the first time since our 2009 tournament. The public can expect to see very exciting high-level volleyball that weekend. I would like to thank all the sponsors, without whom this event would not be possible, along with the other tournament organizers and volunteers.” 

Visiting teams are expected to arrive from April 23 and head out by April 28. Perennial powerhouses like Mexico, Canada and the United States are expected to compete.  

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

Noel Williams, the former Cayman federation president, said the tournament continues to showcase Cayman. 

“Once again, the Cayman Islands is the jewel on the NORCECA beach volleyball calendar,” Williams said. “The International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) and NORCECA are very pleased that our federation is hosting this event in 2014. Our event is used as the benchmark not only for other stops on the NORCECA tour, but also for FIVB world tour events. 

“Fareed has had a difficult time this year with the federation board changes but has continued on diligently for the betterment of the Cayman Islands and the sport of volleyball. I would like to thank all of those involved with making these events a huge success.” 

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 from July 25 to 27 and features Group A for the women and Group H for the men. 

The tournament is free to the public. The main sponsors are: the Department of Tourism, the Ministry of Sports, Corona, Dart Cayman Islands, Cayman Airways and LIME. 

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Some of the region’s best talent will compete here.

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