The Cayman Islands National League Finals for indoor volleyball took place Saturday in the John Gray High School gymnasium. There were three games lined up for the evening, starting with the women’s third place match and followed by the women’s and men’s finals.
The third place match was between the defending national league champion Heineken Honeys and FPC, who finished top of the table in regular league play. FPC were heavily favored and came out swinging with stellar play by Chante Smith-Johnson, who logged seven kills on the night. However it was the Heineken Honeys that would rise to the occasion to win in two straight sets 25-17 and 25-18, behind excellent play by Tiana Dasia Larios, who had a game high eight kills and four block kills, and setter Elena Testori, whose excellent serving also kept the FPC team on the defensive and unable to consistently set up strong attacks.
This game featured a few rising young stars playing prominent roles, which bodes well for the sport going forward.
The women’s finals got under way with the Spike Girls taking on the Clyde Built Construction Lady Knights. These two teams had played each other three times during regular pool play, all of which resulted in wins for the Lady Knights. With that stage set, the fans were treated in the first set to long rallies, with both teams fighting hard for each and every point. Meghan O’Doherty led the Lady Knights in kills with seven in the first set as did Jenny Stuesser with four for the Spike Girls. The real difference maker in the set however was Heather Thompson of Spike Girls who registered two kills and a block kill while in the front court and four digs while in the back court. Her presence altered many of the offensive attempts by the Lady Knights, leading the Spike Girls to win the first set 25-23.
Feeling the momentum from the first set, the Spike Girls involved Heather Thompson even more in the second set as she logged four kills and four block kills in addition to two digs. Alyssa Brock also made her presence felt in the second set, registering an ace and three kills for the Spike Girls. For the Lady Knights, O’Doherty and Brittany Balewich each added four kills in what would be a losing effort, as Spike Girls easily won the second set 25-18 to go up 2-0 in the game.
In the third set, Lady Knights coach Richard Campbell added a new plan of attack to avoid the big blocks by Thompson. The Spike Girls did not adjust to the newly implemented cut shots and tips, leaving them flat footed as youngster Krista Ebanks dig a great job of setting O’Doherty, who logged 10 kills, and Balewich, with five kills, to rally the Lady Knights 25-16 in the third set and 25-9 in the fourth.
The fifth and final set was a showdown which had both teams racing to 15 points. The Spike Girls struggled to channel their girl power, but the Lady Knights had seized the momentum and with renewed confidence they never looked back, winning the final deciding set 15-6 and being crowned the 2017 CIVF National League Ladies Champions. O’Doherty was instrumental in their victory with 24 kills throughout the entire game. Balewich followed suit earning 13 kills and five service aces. For the Spike Girls, Thompson earned eight kills, seven block kills and 12 digs, Brock earned seven kills, two service aces, two digs and a block, and Joanna Poysick defended with 12 big digs for the game.
After such an action packed game from the women the fans’ excitement rose as the referees lifted the nets for the men’s finals, with Chemistry and the Burger King Knights facing off for the trophy. Having lost to the Knights twice in the regular season, Chemistry was eager to settle the score once and for all. The men came out swinging, with both sides seeking to end each rally with a kill. In the first set Olney Thompson dusted off his shoes and showed that he could still fly, putting away a team high of five kills, followed by three kills for Richard Campbell. Chemistry youngster Jesper Barrozo registered four kills as Chemistry narrowly took the first set 25-23.
In the second set, Chemistry setter Jessie Pie involved heavy hitter Barrozo, with a further four kills, and Keeble Knight, who registered 3 kills, as they won 25-22 and jumped out to a two set lead over the Knights, highlighting that the chemistry between the setter and hitters can make or break a team’s attack.
The Knights attempted to gain momentum in the third set but Knight put an end to those hopes by registering seven kills in the set and 12 kills for the game as team Chemistry defeated the Knights 25-10 to be crowned the 2017 CIVF National League Men’s Champions.
Campbell had an excellent game earning eight kills and Thompson six, however inconsistent passing and setting did not allow for more quality attacks.