International beach volleyball action returns to Seven Mile Public Beach this weekend when players take to the nets at the NORCECA Beach Volleyball Tournament.
Hosted by the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation, the competition takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, starting at 8 a.m. on the first two days and 9 a.m. on Sunday.
Thirty-six teams from 16 countries will compete with the goal of accumulating points in order to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Cayman has entered four teams – Richard Campbell/Nathan Dack, Casey Santamaria/Jesse Parham, Marissa Harrison/Ileann Powery and Jessica Wolfenden/Stefania Gandolfi – who will go up against competitors from the Bahamas, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, USA and the US Virgin Islands.
This is Cayman’s 10th time hosting the NORCECA tour. The last time was in 2017 when Cuba, Canada and the USA took the top three spots, respectively, in the men’s division and Cuba, USA and Canada topped the women’s division.
Cayman will be the second stop on the 2019 NORCECA Beach Volleyball tour. The first was in Mexico earlier this month where two teams from Cayman competed. Marissa Harrison and Jessica Wolfenden made a good showing, placing 12th out of a field of 16. The winning women’s team, Maylen Deliz and Leila Martinez from Cuba, who defeated the USA team, will be coming to Cayman with hopes of continuing their success.
The weekend will be packed with court action as 80-plus games are expected to be played. Off the court there will be a Kids Zone sponsored by Sunkist, and other games, contests and giveaways for both adults and kids.
“I’m very excited to be taking part in what is sure to be a great event and, as always, looking forward to representing Cayman in a sport all of us in the squad have a passion for,” said Nathan Dack, who will be taking part in his second NORCECA tournament when he hits the beach this weekend.
“It’s a great opportunity to get to play at such a high level and, although the competition is tough, we hope that it will bring the best out of us and help to encourage more people to get involved in beach volleyball,” he added.
This tournament will be Richard Campbell’s 12th NORCECA event and his first NORCECA tour event in Cayman in five years.
“I’m excited to get back out there in front of the home crowd for the first time in five years and go from being the junior to the senior player,” he said. “I enjoy training and playing with the younger players who, like I was, are the future of the sport here.”
Campbell participated in his first NORCECA tour in 2012, when he placed 6th, tying for the best result a Cayman men’s team has ever had.
This weekend will mark Casey Santamaria’s fifth NORCECA appearance, and his second in the Cayman Islands.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to play again for my country,” he said. “Competitions such as NORCECA are great exposure for the sport here in Cayman and I hope people will come out to support the Cayman teams and experience the fun.”
This will be Jesse Parham’s first time representing the Cayman Islands at home. He also recently represented Cayman at a NORCECA competition in Mexico.
“I’m super excited to be able to play this year. Two years ago, I was helping out, and doing that really drove my love for the sport. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to play here or anywhere,” he said.
Marissa Harrison has been a member of Cayman’s National Team since 2015, when she competed in her first NORCECA tournament at the age of 14.
“I am so excited and proud to be able to once again represent Cayman in the NORCECA tour,” she said. “Being one of the youngest players in the tour can sometimes be intimidating but it’s also exciting to be able to push and challenge myself.
“I also have such great teammates; it’s so much fun to travel and compete with them.”
Harrison finished in the top 10 at the NORCECA tournament in 2018 in Mexico.
This will be Ileann Powery’s seventh NORCECA event. She won her first NORCECA game in April 2017 against Trinidad and Tobago.
“It is always an honour to represent the Cayman Islands and it is my absolute favourite thing to do,” she said.
“I am very thankful to have been selected once again to represent these Islands in front of my home crowd. As I always say, I will put my all in while playing, and I will take everything in this tournament as a learning experience.”
This weekend’s tournament will be Jessica Wolfenden’s 11th NORCECA appearance.
Wolfenden, who finished 4th in the 2016 Cayman NORCECA tournament and was a gold medallist at the Nat West Island Games in Jersey in 2015, will represent Cayman 2019 NatWest Island Games in Gibraltar.
“The Cayman NORCECA stop is always a special one on the tour and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Cayman again. I am excited to be back on the court with Stefania and look forward to battling it out on the sand together.”
Stefania Gandolfi has been competing internationally for Cayman since 2010.
She was a gold medallist at the NatWest Island Games in Jersey in 2015 and made it to final round of Olympic Qualifiers in Mexico in 2016, the best result ever for a Cayman Islands beach volleyball team.