Ileann Powery and Chante Smith-Johnson nearly took Cayman volleyball to new heights.
The duo placed fifth out of 12 teams at the final North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation beach volleyball qualifier for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. The Under-18 tandem won their group before losing in the quarterfinals to Suriname.
Carl Brown, public relations officer for Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation, said the girls boosted the sport with their performance at Carolina Beach in Puerto Rico last weekend.
“They went to Puerto Rico with expectations to do their best,” Brown said. “To end up fifth out of 12 teams is a considerable achievement. They didn’t make it to Nanjing, but that doesn’t mean we’re not significantly proud of them.”
Powery and Smith-Johnson won both group games, beating Natasha Best and Jenna Greer of Antigua 21-11, 21-12 before producing the upset of the tournament. The tandem defeated Diana Valdez and Stephanie Burnside of Mexico 23-21, 19-21, 15-10.
In the elimination stages, they ran into a familiar obstacle in Sigourney Kame and Cabriella Bouterse of Suriname. The Dutch speakers had beaten Cayman in last November’s Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association qualifier in Maracas Beach, Trinidad. History would repeat itself as the Surinamese girls emerged victorious 21-12, 21-16. Suriname went on to lose to Canadian identical twins Megan and Nicole McNamara 21-11, 21-8 to miss qualifying for Nanjing.
After losing to Suriname, Cayman had to earn a fifth place finish with victories over Grenada’s Jomelar Billy and Carsie Paul (21-14, 21-10) and Costa Rica’s Pamela Zumbado and Alisson Font (21-12, 21-10).
In addition to the Canadians, Puerto Ricans Lina Bernier and Valeria Cajigas booked their spots in China. In all, the NORCECA region will produce six female teams, with the other squads being St. Lucia’s Dala Noel and Skye Mondesir, Trinidad and Tobago’s Chelsi Ward and Malik Davidson, Suzanne Munno and Sarah Sponcil of the United States and Guatemala’s Natalia Giron and Estefanie Bethancourt.
The Puerto Rico tournament also incorporated a boys segment. Puerto Rican duo Sergio Figueroa and Daniel Rivera, along with Louis Richards and Torey DeFalco of the United States, secured their spots in Nanjing. They will join NORCECA tandems Rodell Fraser and Delshun Welcome of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Rojey Hutchinson and Shavar Bryan of Jamaica, Jake McNeil and Andrew Richards of Canada and Erik Flores and Mark Alvarez of Guatemala in China.