Chante Smith-Johnson continues to be a bright spot in local volleyball.
Smith-Johnson, 17, represented Cayman at a international senior level for the third stop of the 2014 North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation Beach Volleyball Circuit. She would team up with Jessica Wolfenden, 26, to play in Antigua, Guatemala this month. It was not a exceptional performance as the duo lost both of their matches and dropped Cayman down to 10th in the standings but it was the latest step in her maturation to being a competent adult player.
Fareed Hosein serves as tournament director for the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation and was among the organizers for the NORCECA opener in Cayman last month. Hosein says Smith-Johnson and fellow West Bay talent Ileann Powery, 16, represent the sport’s future.
“It’s very important for Cayman’s athletes to play international competitions, it exposes them to a higher level of play and helps to improve their abilities,” Hosein said. “The tour significantly increases the exposure of the sport of volleyball, especially to the youth of the Cayman Islands. It also assists greatly in the promotion of the island as a sports tourism destination.
“Chante and her playing partner Ileann are very promising young players for Cayman and we will continue to give them as much exposure as possible to international competition to continue with their progression in the sport.”
Smith-Johnson and Wolfenden would lose to Diana Romero and Marcela Avalos of El Salvador, 21-17 and 21-11, before losing to Tealle Hunkus and Kimberly McGiven of the United States, 21-6 and 21-6. As a result, they finished last out of 15 teams. Cayman also sent a men’s team to Guatemala but they did not do well, as Duncan Hamann and Richard Campbell dropped all three of their matches. The pair lost to Miguel Lopez and Henry Hernandez of Nicaragua, 21-14 and 21-18, Cameron Wheelan and Michael Plantinga of Canada, 21-12 and 21-6 and Derek Olson and Kevin McColloch of the United States, 21-14 and 21-16.
Smith-Johnson started out on the indoor side of the sport and has progressed steadily on the beach. This year, she teamed up with Powery to take part in the NORCECA qualifiers for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.