TRINIDAD and Tobago’s men struck gold when the curtain fell on the first-round Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) men’s beach qualifying tournament for next year’s Olympic Games yesterday at Saith Park, Chaguanas.
The hosts defeated Jamaica 2-1 in the gold-medal match to be crowned beach volleyball champions of the Caribbean, after their men and women swept the indoor titles in the Caribbean Championships at home in August last year.
The only senior CAZOVA title that T&T do not hold is the women’s beach crown as the two pairs (Apphia Glasgow,La Teisha Joseph and Elki Philip,Shenelle Gordon) claimed the bronze when Jamaica edged Cayman Islands for the title in the women’s first-round Olympic qualifier the weekend before in Jamaica.
T&T were the top-ranked of the 14 countries involved in the men’s tournament, mainly because of Fabian Whitfield and Daneil Williams.
And the “Toco Boys” proved without a shadow of a doubt that they are head and shoulders above the rest by not dropping a single set over the three days, just as they had done in all ten local tournaments at the same venue this season.
With the gold-medal match deadlocked at 1-1, Williams and Whitfield defeated Mark Lewis and Ryck McKenzie 15-12 in the “golden set” decider to gain revenge as Jamaica had taken down T&T in the women’s semis the week before.
Lewis and McKenzie had forced the decider by beating Tevin Joseph and Josiah Eccles 21-15, 21-13, after Whitfield and Williams had drawn first blood for the hosts with a 21-10, 21-15 triumph over Donovan Richards and Christopher Richards.
T&T coach David Thomas stated: “As we planned before the tournament started, our aim was to get to the second phase of qualification by taking gold and showing that we are the top team in the Caribbean, and we proved that here today”.
Earlier in the day, the ‘Toco Boys” cruised past Carlos Rosa Jr and Edward Peter Jr 21-13, 21-8 while Eccles and Joseph defeated Bradley-Reading Connor and Gustavo Cintron 21-16, 21-18 in T&T’s 2-0 triumph over the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) in the semi-finals.
The Jamaicans also did not drop a set as they dismissed Curacao for the other place in the title match.
The USVI were forced to default the first match in the bronze-medal contest because Rosa Jr was suffering with heat exhaustion and they ended up being edged 2-1 by Curacao.
The Barbadians ended up fifth after Elwyn Oxley and Daran Gill edged Roberto Joval and Eurwin Daansi of Suriname 15-12 in a “golden set.”
As was the case with the women, the top six countries advanced to do battle against the top six from the Eastern Caribbean Zonal Association (ECVA) region in a few months in the second round of regional qualifying.
There are four rounds of qualifying in the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) region for the Olympics.
T&T, Jamaica, Barbados, Suriname and USVI advanced from both the men’s and women’s tournaments to the second stage. Silver-medallists Cayman Islands picked up the other spot for the women and bronze-medallist Curacao clinched the other place for the men.