Outside-hitter Simon Blake and opposite Ryan Stewart showed the future of T&T was in safe hands as they tallied 18 points each in a 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 defeat of Barbados in the men’s final of the 15th Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (Cazova) Championship at the Jean Pierre Complex, Mucurapo on Sunday night.
The win secured a second title in four years for the Gideon Dickson-coached T&T after it lifted the crown for the first time four years ago in Suriname by beating Barbados as well before going under to Bahamas in the 2012 final in St Croix, US Virgin Islands.
Having beaten T&T in four sets in their round-robin Pool B decider earlier in the week, the Barbadians went into the contest as slight favourites, and took the first set.
However, Blake, the “Best Spiker”, “Best Scorer” and eventual tournament “Most Valuable Player” award recipient and Stewart, who had 17 and 12 kills respectively rallied the host to a come-from-behind win in two hours and seven minutes.
Portugal-based middle-blocker Marc-Anthony Honore and USA-based Mikheil Hoyte chipped in with 13 and 12 points respectively while captain, Nolan Tash who was playing in his final Cazova Championship after 20 years in the sport added six.
The locals also outscored their rivals on all key aspects of the match, 47-43 on kills, 18-4 on blocks and 4-1 on aces.
In a very closely fought contest, T&T was also able to take full advantage of an injury to Barbadian captain and setter Alain London, who twisted his left ankle near to his team’s bench with the score 20-15 in the third set.
The lone disappointment for the home team on the night was its 37 errors committed to Barbados’ 28, however it still held firm to avenged the round-robin loss and claim the title, its first on home soil after placing fourth in 1993 and 2002 when its opponent were crowned champions.
The title triumph had a similar feel to 2010 as back then T&T was beaten by Barbados in the preliminary round, before ousting Bahamas in the semifinals and then exacting revenge on the Bajans in the title match.
Shawn Simpson had a team-high 12 points all on kills, Jabari Goodridge 11, and Fabian Cox, nine for the Barbadians who were after their first title since beating T&T in the 2006 decider for its last of its record ten-titles.
Barbados, the record 12-time finalists was also crowned champions from 1992-1996 as well as 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 while they were also runners-up in 2008 to Martinique before ending third in 2012, its lowest finish ever.
Commenting on the win, veteran Tash said it was a very emotional victory for many reasons.
“Firstly, coming into the tournament we were under a lot of pressure to do well and I don’t think we were looked at as favourites.”
“However, we knew the strength of our team and wanted to take the title on home soil for the first time because with this victory it opens up doors for our team to compete at the higher Norceca level.
“The match was also dedicated to me as this will surely be my last Cazova event and what a way to go out, as champions. I could not have asked for anything better, so thanks to my team-mates and the crowd for their tremendous support.”
Barbadian coach Niles Ludger credited T&T for playing a good match and noted that the level of support by the crowd played a key role on keeping them on a high.
T&T coach Gideon Dickson said his team executed its game plan accordingly to get the win.
“We knew going into the match it would not be easy, but the guys stuck to their task and got the required result.”
Best Spiker: Kevin Sporkslede (Suriname)
Best Spiker: Simon Blake (T&T)
Best Opposite: Shawn Simpson (Barbados)
Best Receiver: Renaldo Mota (Curacao)
Best Digger: Ricardo Chong (Jamaica)
Best Blocker: Byron Ferguson (Bahamas)
Best Blocker: Rachid Isenia (Curacao)
Best Setter: Giandro Tokaay (Curacao)
Best Libero: Ryan Mahadeo (T&T)
Best Server: Ryck Mc Kenzie-Webb (Jamaica)
Best Scorer: Simon Blake (T&T)
Most Valuable Player: Simon Blake (T&T)