Cayman team makes history in NORCECA

Best a local team has ever done in this type of “top tier” competition

Jessica Wolfenden, right, was in a rush to make a flight Sunday afternoon. She was due to participate in a bone marrow transplant.

The Cayman Islands beach volleyball duo of Jessica Wolfenden and Stefania Gandolfi found themselves in a sprint, of sorts, to the finish line in this weekend’s NORCECA tournament, having reached the third-place game on Sunday against international competition.

After getting through the group stages on three wins, the Cayman team beat a Trinidadian duo in the quarterfinal stages on Saturday. They lost a tough match to Betsi Flint and Kelley Larsen of the U.S. on Sunday morning in the tournament semifinals, which put them in the third-place match against Mexico.

Unfortunately, the Cayman team lost out in the runner-up game to the Mexican team Sunday.

Ms. Wolfenden, a teacher who has worked in the Cayman Islands for the past four years and who plays competitive volleyball in her free time, was in a rush to make a flight Sunday afternoon. She was due to participate in a bone marrow transplant operation in Virginia aimed at saving a young patient’s life.

“So I play at 11:30 a.m. against Mexico, take a quick dip in the water and run to the airport to catch a 1:45 p.m. flight,” she said Sunday. “NORCECA has been absolutely amazing. They’ve reworked the whole schedule so we don’t have to forfeit and I can hopefully get to the airport on time.”

The flight was ill-timed, as Wolfenden and Gandolfi were essentially having the tournament of their lives against top teams from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Taylor Burrowes with the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation said Sunday’s matches represented the farthest a Cayman Islands team has ever gotten against this type of “top tier” competition.

Ms. Wolfenden said she and Ms. Gandolfi had made it past the group stages twice in NORCECA tournaments in the past two years but had not won a quarterfinal match.
“We’re making a little history here,” she said, “just trying to hang in there with the big kids.”

The Canada native said she was a bit surprised to be selected for the bone marrow transplant for the patient in Virginia.

She said she recalled that she had signed up to a donor list while giving blood about a decade ago when she was in college, but she didn’t think much of it at the time.

Recently, she said, she was contacted as a potential donor for a patient in Virginia. She said she knows very little about the child’s condition, but said she wants to help out.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now