Ready for battle in Women’s World Championship NORCECA second round
Willemstad, Curacao, May 10, 2013- The road to the 2014 FIVB Women’s World Championship in Italy resumes in the NORCECA region with the staging of the second round Group J qualifier on Saturday May 11 and Sunday May 12, at the International School of Curacao Auditorium, Willemstad.
In addition to the host country Curacao, which is ranked 22 on the NORCECA rankings, 15th ranked St Lucia, the reigning Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association (ECVA) champions 19th ranked Antigua & Barbuda, as well as #27th Belize of the Central American Volleyball Confederation (AFECAVOL) are the four countries who will be involved in the two days of competition with the aim of advancing to the next round.
The four teams will first contest a round-robin series to be concluded on Sunday morning after which the top two teams will battle it out for the gold medal, having both already qualified for the third round of qualification as finalists.
The third placed team will also have a chance to qualifying for the third round, but will need to do so as the best third place finisher from all six groups of the second round qualifiers.
St Lucia, who will enter the tournament as joint-favourites along with the host country earned its passage after topping its first round Group B qualifiers in Grenada last June by beating St Vincent and The Grenadines in the final, 25-21, 25-17, 25-15.
Curacao qualified to the second round as runner-up to host US Virgin Islands in their Group C series, after losing 23-25, 15-25, 25-19, 17-25 in their tournament decider.
Antigua & Barbuda, like Curacao ended as second placed finishers in its Group F first round qualifiers in the British Virgin Islands after a 24-26, 22-25, 25-21, 24-26 loss in the final to champions Dominica.
In Group G, in the first only first round set of qualifiers played only as a round-robin, Belize was third behind host Panama and El Salvador with a win over Bonaire, 25-19, 25-19, 25-18.
Speaking following the Preliminary Enquiry of the participating teams which was held at the Holiday Beach Hotel, the coaches of the four participating teams while acknowledging they had limited information on most of their rivals were still very confident in their team’s chances to advance to the second round.
Belize coach, Allan Sharp said his team’s preparations was up and down because of a lack of their own facility which made practice difficult but will be motivated to do well due to its long travels.
Sharp said he believes his team will put their best effort forward having made a big sacrifice of travelling for 29 hours from Belize via bus to Guatemala, then by air lift to Panama and Curacao.
“So I know for certain there is a great motivation in the team to do well and we will be very pleased with a top two finish.
Asked who he sees as his main opponent for top spot Sharp said it was difficult to pin-point anyone team because it will be the first time his team will be coming up against any of the teams.
“We don’t know the Caribbean teams at all, but we are expecting that they will be big and much more experienced than us, but we are a fighting unit and will play to the last point.
Esron Gittens, coach of the Antigua and Barbuda said despite the absence of a few senior players due to injuries and work commitments he was expecting good things from his team.
“For this tournament we kind of have a younger squad than we were anticipating as we were forced into some changes with the injuries to some players," Gittens said.
“Despite those setbacks our preparation I must say was pretty good as can be, and while we are not predicting that we will win the tournament we will be happy to do our best and see where its puts us at the end of the competition.
With respect to his opponents Gittens said his team is very familiar with the St Lucia squad from competing against each other in the ECVA, but had no knowledge of what level of play the Belize and Curacao teams were at.
“All we know of the two other teams is how they qualified from their respective first round qualifiers, but we don’t intend to take anything for granted because we all are playing for two automatic spots to the next round and we surely want to be among the qualifiers.", ended the Antiguan coach.
Henri Delfina, coach of Curacao boasted his team had been preparing for the second round of qualifiers since February with training sessions taking place three times week and then increased to four times a week inclusive of gym strengthening as tournament time got closer. “So I thing we have prepared good enough to secure first place in this second round group.”
With regards to the opposing teams in the group Delfina said his team has no knowledge of its opponents as it’s the first time they will be locking horns with them.
“I don’t know what to expect, all I know is how they were able to qualify for this round. But at the same time our team is a better prepared team now than when we played in the first round qualifiers in US Virgin Islands and ended second to the host country.
“Back then we missed a few players, but now we are stronger and I expect for us to be champions on Sunday night and if that does not happen I will be a disappointed man.
Florian Combie, coach of St Lucia said his team is in Curacao to claim top spot.
Combie stated: “Our team is one that has never really stopped training completely. Since the last tournament we always tried train at least twice a week and coming into this second round group of qualifiers it has been good."
“We are in a group in which we know Antigua and Barbuda team well from our encounters in the ECVA, and our most recent final which we won in five sets, so we expect another tough duel with them.
“On the other hand, all we know of Belize and Curacao is what we have heard from various sources, but we expect that Curacao, being the host country will be a strong opponent.
“Nevertheless we are ready for whatever challenge we may face as we intend to win the group and be among the top two qualifiers for the next round,” said the coach of the ECVA title holders.