Thursday, February 29, 2024

How the Bajan v’ballers stack up


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The?dominance that Barbados once enjoyed in Caribbean volleyball arena, now seems a distant memory.
This week, the best men’s and women’s teams in this country are in Trinidad and?Tobago (T&T) for the 15th Caribbean Volleyball Championship (CVC), and it is all about redemption.
After dominating the 1990s, Barbados’ women have not taken the crown since a double strike in 2002 in T&T and our men who have won ten crowns last held the title in 2006 when they defeated T&T in the Bahamas.
While Barbados men have a squad that can seriously challenge defending champions The Bahamas, it is hard to imagine Barbados women or others like The Bahamas, Jamaica or Suriname to threaten T&T women’s total domination of Caribbean volleyball.
The retirement of former captain and Romanian-based Krystle Esdelle may have affected T&T, but with a clutch of players like the dominant Kelly-Anne Billingy who play their craft throughout Europe the hosts are odds on to win a record fifth successive CVC.
Barbados’ team show a number of experienced players with some rather green members who will depend heavily on too few doing too much to win. The small size of the Barbados players will also be a handicap.
Former two times MVP Shari Matthews’ and six-footer Anicia Wood’s form and experience as professional players will be key. However, the strength or weakness of setter Akeelah Blenman and Harrison College teenager Ashley Jordan will be exposed by the big T&T attackers.
Jordan, who is the daughter of former Barbados middle Andy Jordan, will need her dad’s blocking genes to be an asset in the two position. In addition, the play of captain Thonya Joseph, experienced Julia Lewis and Avara Brown suggest that they are past their best.
The younger Mya Evelyn, Shani Leacock, DeAnn Smith and Abeje Carrington will need many future tournaments to reach their full potential.
Shockingly, Akilah Phillips who normally plays middle at the club level where she does not pass, is being inserted at the all important role of libero.
At least Barbados women can boast of half of their team having US training in Wood, Matthews, Carrington, Phillips, Smith and Joseph.
Barbados men who are led by local MVP Alain London will be aiming to make the tournament a breaking-out as well as a retirement function for some players. After an impressive debut at the Norceca Under-21 Championship in El Salvador, captain Ammuniki Wood, 6ft, 6in Chioke Holder and the US-based Jabarry Goodridge will be adding some youth and fire to the team.
An out-of-form Fabian Cox who has been smouldering for a long time will hope to catch afire in what must be his final CVC. The aggression of Shawn Simpson, Akeem Payne and Kyle Browne could be matched by middles Romel Agard, Wood, Holder and the US-based Leshon Alexander.
The support of libero Sheldon Roach and reserve setter Ronald Rice will give coach Ludger Niles the option to allow London to play an attacking role at critical times. With tickets to Norceca and the Pan Am Games at stake, it will be interesting to see how much the Bajan men will be fired up to win and to book their flights.
Women’s team: Joseph, captain, Lewis, Matthews, Wood, Jordan, Evelyn, Phillips, Carrington, Smith, Brown, Blenman and Leacock. Andrew Brathwaite, coach; Leron Knight, assistant coach and Shirley Hoyte-Boyce, manager.
Men’s team: London, captain, Simpson, Goodridge, Cox, Holder, Wood, Payne, Agard, Alexander, Roach, Browne and Rice. Ludger Niles, coach; Shon Hurdle, assistant coach and Roxanne Forte, manager.


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