Cayman’s teams had a few close games, but ultimately fell short of making the quarterfinals Saturday at the 2019 NORCECA Beach Volleyball Tour.
While the men’s teams were eliminated from the NORCECA tournament, they will continue play Sunday morning in the Continental Cup – a different international tournament featuring some of the same teams.
The women’s duo of Jessica Wolfenden and Stefania Gandolfi performed the best out of the territory’s four teams, winning their match on Saturday against Trinidad and Tobago.
Wolfenden and Gandolfi finished third in their pool of five teams – a bracket that included powerhouses such as the U.S. and Canada – and barely missed reaching the quarterfinals.
“Steph and Jess really trust each other and have a lot of fun playing with each other, and I think it was reflective of their play,” said Cayman coach Rick Beavis. “Their losses were against some very talented teams.”
Ileann Powery and Marissa Harrison fell to a team from Canada on Saturday and were eliminated. The men’s teams of Richard Campbell and Nathan Dack, and Casey Santamaria and Jesse Parham also both lost their Saturday matches to round out the NORCECA competition.
A raucous Cayman crowd cheered every point by the local teams, even when they were down by 10 or more points.
“The crowd was really into it,” Beavis remarked.
Cayman’s teams may have had some tough losses, but Beavis said he thinks they will learn and improve from facing the stiff competition.
“There’s a lot of very skilled athletes here, and I think sometimes we focus too much on the outcome,” he said. “We should be concerned if we’re getting better and having a positive experience.”
Cayman players were winless halfway through Friday play at the 2019 NORCECA Beach Volleyball Tour, which runs through the weekend at Public Beach.
“We need to start strong at the beginning and not have to come from behind,” said Jessica Wolfenden after she and her partner Stefania Gandolfi lost their first match in two games to a team from Canada.
The Caymanian team came back from deficits in both games to pull within a couple of points, but lost each time in the end.
“Maybe next game we’ll be a little more confident,” said Gandolfi.
That “next” match was against a US team, which proved to be too much for the Cayman duo.
The women had support from the stands. Wolfenden is a teacher at Cayman International School and students from the school were on hand to cheer her on. They also yelled for the other Cayman teams.
Marissa Harrison, 17, said she appreciated the encouragement, especially from her family. Harrison attends school in San Diego, California and her family doesn’t often get to see her play.
“This is one of the biggest events of the year,” she said. “It’s very special for me because my family gets to watch.”
For a short time, Harrison and her partner Ileann Powery led the US team they played during their second game. At one point they were up 7-3.
“I was feeling awesome,” Harrison said, “because the crowd was cheering and we were doing really well.”
The game was later tied at 14 before the US hammered out a run of seven unanswered points to win the game and the match.
Gandolfi said Cayman players are at a disadvantage over larger countries such as the United States and Canada, where many players get support to train and compete full-time. She makes her living as a spin class instructor.
“It’s a tough tournament,” she said. “We try to bring the very best of ourselves.”
The three-day event features 36 teams from 15 countries. There are four Cayman teams — two men’s, two women’s — in the mix. Four pools of teams compete in a round-robin format through Saturday morning. Two teams each will emerge from each pool to play in the semifinals Saturday afternoon and the finals on Sunday.