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Wednesday 17 October 2018
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Cruz wants players to soak up experience

TT volleyball team leave for World Championships in Japan

The Women's Senior National Volleyball team pose for photo prior to a final local scrimmage ahead of FIVB Women's Championships against UWI men's team at UWI SPEC, St. Augustine, yesterday. Photo: Allan V. Crane/CA-images
The Women's Senior National Volleyball team pose for photo prior to a final local scrimmage ahead of FIVB Women's Championships against UWI men's team at UWI SPEC, St. Augustine, yesterday. Photo: Allan V. Crane/CA-images

RATHER than focus on targets and objectives, coach of the national women’s volleyball team, Francisco “Panchee” Cruz, simply wants his team to soak up the invaluable experience when they challenge the 2018 World Women’s Volleyball Championships in Japan, which begins on September 29.

The team left in two groups. The first left for Canada yesterday and the other group is expected to depart for the US early this morning. All players and staff are expected in Japan tomorrow.

Cruz, who has been a part of the national setup for over 12 years, says the challenge will be enormous, more so as TT will be the only country to debut at the championship. TT is ranked a respectable 34th place but are the lowest ranked team in the group, Pool C.

Pool C consists of USA, which is ranked second in the world, Russia (fifth), South Korea (tenth), Thailand (16th), Azerbaijan (24th) and TT.

“The only expectation we have there is that the players take the experience. That is the first time they will take part in the tournament. The challenge is very, very high,” Cruz said in an interview with Newsday.

“The teams (Azerbaijan and Thailand) are more level to us. (But) those are teams that played in the World Championships. Only Trinidad is the team that will take part in one World Championship.”

He discussed some of the challenges he faces in preparing a full-strength team for the quadrennial event.

“You know here, we don’t have facilities for training. We cannot have expectations, just take the experience as the first time (competing),” Cruz said.

And then there are several minor injury and fitness concerns. There are, in fact, more players carrying injuries than those who aren’t, according to Cruz.

“The players who finished the last tournament, the CAC, they have a few injured. Some players have problems in the ankle, some players in the knee. For example, (Krystle) Esdelle has a problem in the shoulder. Nobody is ready. Everybody has these problems. They maybe can play because they (may) recover a little. But ready, ready? They are not fully ready.”

Cruz singled out Kiune Fletcher and Channon Thompson among the few who are fit. “It is normal in volleyball,” he reassured. “The players sometimes carry injuries.”

The team has scheduled warm-up matches against professional clubs in the city of Himeji, Japan before the start of the tournament. They will be accommodated by the Himeji Volleyball Club, one of their opponents, during pre-tournament. The team will then travel to the city of Kobe, where they will stay for the first round of the competition. The governing body for volleyball, the FIVB is in charge of accommodation for the duration of the tournament.

In preparation for the competition, the team has trained six days per week at three locations: the Eastern Regional Indoor Sport Arena, Tacarigua; the Central Regional Indoor Arena, Chaguanas; and the Pleasantville Indoor Regional Sporting Facility.

Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe recently presented the volleyball federation with a $450,000 grant to help the team’s preparation for and participation at the Volleyball World Championships. According to the team manager, Aaron Pollard, the funding was able to pay for the tickets, layover accommodation, medical treatment and various other items for the event.

The team is captained by setter Renele Forde and comprises of Afesha Olton (libero), Channon Thompson (wing spiker), Darlene Ramdin (wing spiker), Delicia Pierre (wing spiker), Kelly-Anne Billingy (setter), Kiune Fletcher (opposite spiker), Krystle Esdelle (opposite spiker), Precious Morain (libero), Taija Thomas (opposite spiker), Jalicia Ross-Kydd (middle blocker) and Sinead Jack (middle blocker).

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