While the rest of Cayman was busy relaxing during the long weekend of 7-10 June, selected players for the Cayman’s Senior National Beach Team were busy earning points on the beaches of La Paz, Mexico.
Representing the women’s team at this NORCECA stop were Chante Smith-Johnson and Cristin Burton-Alexander, and they were joined by Nathan Dack and Richard Campbell from the men’s team.
The women’s team came out strong in their first game against the US Virgin Islands, losing the first set by a small margin, 17-21. Unfortunately, they did not manage to maintain that momentum in the second set and lost 21-14. Their second game was extremely tough, as they lost to the host country’s team 21-5 and 21-12.
Their third pool game was scheduled for Saturday, 8 June, so the women took time to strategise going into their match against Fletcher and Thorup from Canada. Their efforts were rewarded as they managed to keep pace with the Canadians for the first set, narrowly losing 21-18. They lost their momentum in the second set and were defeated 21-10.
The women’s team went on to play El Salvador for the 9th place spot, but they fell short in two straight sets 21-9.
Despite some tough losses, Alexander-Burton still recognised the silver lining to her participation in the NORCECA stop. “Chante and I were extremely grateful for the opportunity to represent Cayman again at the La Paz, NORCECA stop after many years away from beach volleyball. We did not have the results we were hoping for but played our best and learned valuable lessons along the way,” Alexander-Burton said.
The Cayman men’s team only had two games scheduled for the regular pool play, but they were awarded a bye due to the fourth team missing from their pool.
Despite their valiant effort against Costa Rica, they still fell short, losing both sets to Valenciano and Quintero 21-14.
Their second game in pool play proved to be even harder, with Guatemala swiftly ending the match in two straight sets 21-7 and 21-8.
Campbell and Dack went on to play St. Kitts and Nevis in the bottom bracket of the quarter-finals, where they defeated Seabrookes and Rebels by 21-17 in the first set and 21-13 in the second set.
On the final day of the competition, they were scheduled to play Kopp and Burlacu from Canada. Dack and Campbell were unable to channel their victories from the previous day and fell short 21-5 and 21-7.
Their last match of the competition was against El Salvador, and that would determine their final ranking in the tournament. Tato and Pepe are a strong team, but Dack and Campbell held their own in the first set, only losing 21-16. They had a harder time closing the gap in the second set and lost 21-13. In the end, they were ranked 12 and were awarded 100 points.
Both the men’s and women’s team representing Cayman were fairly new partnerships, so this tournament has valuable lessons for all players involved.
Dack said, “As our second tournament playing together, it was a good test for adjustments we have made to our strategy since NORCECA Cayman. We had some tough matches but we managed to win our playoff match against St. Kitts and Nevis, and played well against El Salvador and Costa Rica.
“Looking forward, we have the next month to work on our consistency and flow to maximise how we can side out and defend, before heading to Island Games in Gibraltar. We are very thankful to be able to represent Cayman, and very much appreciate all the effort that goes in to allowing us to do that both here in Cayman and in other competitions.”