Top ranked local duo, Ayana Dyette and Malika Davidson will spear-head this country’s women’s beach volleyball teams quest for a spot at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in Brazil to be held in August when the Third Round of NORCECA Women’s Continental Beach Volleyball Olympic qualifiers begin.
The three-day tournament involving eight teams take place in San Salvador, El Salvador from tomorrow until Sunday where Dyette and Davidson, both of whom have been busy competing on the NORCECA Circuit will be joined by former national women’s indoor team-mates, Abby Blackman and Rheeza Grant.
Blackman and Grant, secured their place on the team after they copped two of the three women’s local qualifying tournaments hosted by the T&T Volleyball Federation Beach Volleyball Selection Committee at the National Beach Volleyball Development Centre, Saith Park, Chaguanas last month.
When the NORCECA Women Olympic qualifiers began last year, Elki Phillip paired with Shenelle Gordon while La Teisha Joseph partnered Apphia Glasgow to earn T&T third spot behind host Jamaica and Cayman Islands in CAZOVA Round One.
But in Round Two last year, which was also staged in Jamaica, Dyette and Davidson, and Glasgow and Joseph led T&T to the gold medal over Barbados while Jamaica and French St Martin were third and fourth respectively to complete the representatives from the CAZOVA/ Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association (ECVA) region where they join Central America Zone teams, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and host El Salvador.
At the end of the eight-team series, the top six teams will advance to the Fourth Round of Olympic qualifiers to be held in Mexico, June 20-27.
The Third Round of NORCECA Men’s Continental Beach Volleyball Olympic qualifiers will take place in Pigeon Point, St Lucia from May 26-30 and T&T will be represented by the all-Toco team of top pairing, Daneil Williams and Fabien Whitfield as well as Simon Blake and his cousin Colin Bernard.
Williams and Whitfield, have been very consistent on the NORCECA Beach Tour this year and captured a first ever silver medal on the fourth stop in Costa Rica last month while Blake and Bernard, former team-mates on the NORCECA Circuit as well were selected by the T&TVF after they won two of three qualifying tournaments held
Last year when T&T hosted the CAZOVA Round One qualifiers, Whitfield and Williams and second pair, Tevin Joseph and Josiah Eccles won gold ahead of Jamaica.
This was followed by a runner-up finish in the CAZOVA/ECVA Second Round series held in Antigua & Barbuda in January of this year where T&T represented by Whitfield and Williams, and Christian Francois/Blake were beaten in the final by US Virgin Islands.
Jamaica took third ahead of fellow qualifiers Curacao and the quartet will compete against Central America’s qualifiers, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salavador for the top six places to the Fourth Round in June.
...T&T makes U-21 World Champ debut
Meanwhile, the T&T Under-21 teams of another Toco-duo, Kareem Thomas and Tevin Edwards (men) as well as Nicolette De Mille and Canada-born Taija Thomas will make their debut at the FIVB Beach Volleyball Under-21 World Championship in Lucerne, Switzerland today with the start of pool matches.
The tournament began yesterday with qualifying round matches to the main draw, however, the T&T teams, the lone CAZOVA or ECVA representative had byes into the main draw of 32 teams, which will consist of eight pools of four teams in each pool competing over a round-robin system.
Today in women’s Pool D play, De Mille and Thomas meet China’s Jiali Chen and Jiaomei Li followed by a clash with Russians, Nadezda Makroguzova and Svetlana Kholomina before the end round-robin play versus Poland’s Martyna Kloda and Agata Trybula on Friday.
In the men’s event, Thomas and Edwards open their Pool C campaign against Venezuela’s Jose Gregorio Gomez and Rolando Hernandez while they play France’s Arnaud Loiseau and Arnaud Gauthier-Rat, and Austrians Moritz Pristaud-Telsnigg and Felix Friedle, both on Friday.
At the end of round-robin play on tomorrow (Friday), the best three ranked teams in each pool (24 teams) will advance to the next phase of single elimination until the bronze and gold medal matches.