The beach volleyball courts at Seven Mile Public Beach are relatively quiet now that NORCECA has moved onto its next stop on the Beach Volleyball Tour.
Many of the teams that competed in Cayman over the last weekend in April went on to play in Nicaragua the following weekend, on 4 and 5 May. The Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation opted to skip that stop, because they wanted to give the women’s team adequate time to regroup and reevaluate their tactics before leaving for Cuba on 9 May.
Ileann Powery and Stefania Gandolfi are no strangers to Cuba, as they played in Cuba and Mexico during the 2018 tour, making this their third stop as a team.
The players’ first game was in the midday heat on Friday, 10 May, against Team Canada’s May and Lenarduzzi, to whom they lost in two straight sets, 21-10 and 21-9. Powery and Gandolfi took the time between games to strategise and scout out their next opponents. Their tactics were strong going into the first set against El Savador’s Vasquez and Vargas, in which they only narrowly lost, 21-17. They did not manage to make it a three-set match, suffering a 21-9 defeat in the second set.
Despite their track record from the previous day, Gandolfi and Powery took to the courts again on 11 May, feeling revitalised. They quickly took the first set against Jamaica’s Smith and Wright 21-12, but could not keep that momentum in the second set, losing 13-21. Powery and Gandolfi fought hard in the third set, but in the end fell short by two points with a loss of 17-19.
The women played their last game in the bottom bracket against Cost Rica, and a third loss in that match sealed their fate in 13th place.
Organisers said each competition is a learning experience for the athletes, and there are numerous benefits in sending the athletes to compete in these NORCECA stops.
“For starters, the exposure to some of the top teams from surrounding countries allows them to improve their game,” said Technical Director Javid Ali. “In addition, the teams earn points each time they compete in a stop, which are needed to improve our ranking in order to attend some of the higher calibre events such as [the] Pan Am Games.”
Powery said she took away some valuable lessons from the experience. “Cuba was a challenging experience when it pertains to the factors that affect beach volleyball game play,” she said. “The winds were very strong, but my teammate and I tried our best to adjust and use it to our advantage. This trip also reassured my desire to want to better my game and hopefully win games going forward.”
The next stop for the duo will be the Island Games in Gibraltar in July.
Before that, other Cayman players, Cristin Alexander-Bruton, Chante Smith, Nathan Dack and Richard Campbell, take on the competition in La Paz, Mexico, on 8 June.