Daneil Williams and Simon Blake improved again when the NORCECA (North, Central America and the Caribbean) Beach Volleyball Tour continued last weekend in Guatemala.

After finishing 11th in the opening leg in the Cayman Islands and then seventh at the second stage in the Dominican Republic during the final two weekends of last month, the Trinidad and Tobago players ended up fifth of the 20 competing pairs.

After winning their three matches in the round robin phase of the tournament to finish at the top of Group E, Blake and Williams were forced to settle for the highest place outside the top four when they were beaten 21-16, 21-18 Saturday by eventual runners-up Karell Pina and Sergio Gonzalez of Cuba.

Earlier in the day, the “Toco Boys” had whipped Luis Castillo and Alex Medina of the Dominican Republic 21-11, 21-14 to end the group phase of the tournament unbeaten.

The day before, Williams and Blake had battled back strongly after losing the first set in their opening match to defeat Luis Torres and Mario Ramirez of Guatemala 16-21, 21-11, 15-3, and they later cruised past Hondurans Jesus Quantanilla and Manuel Serrano 21-17, 21-12.

It was the joint-best showing by Blake at this level as he had also placed fifth—with Colin Bernard—in the St Lucia leg of last year’s circuit, in the middle of October.

Williams and then partner, Fabian Whitfield finished fourth in that tournament, and two weeks later they picked up this country’s first-ever NORCECA medal when they notched bronze at home in Toco.

T&T were represented by three other pairs in last weekend’s three-day tournament, but Elki Philip and Apphia Glagsow were the only other players to reach the knockout phase.

After being outclassed 21-8, 21-4 by eventual bronze medallists Brittany Hockevar and Emily Day of the United States, last Friday, the first-time teammates nosed out Hondurans Gina Flores and Martha Euceda 20-22, 21-16, 18-16 the following day to finish second in Group D and earn a place in the round of 16.

However, Philip, who has two fourth-place efforts at NORCECA level, and relative newcomer Glasgow were then beaten 21-14, 21-9 by Nairobi Agramonte and Diama Peguerro of the Dominican Republic, and were forced to settle for 12th place of the 18 pairs involved.
Finishing right behind them were compatriots LaTeisha Joseph, in her third NORCECA tournament, and debutant Kinesha Marshall, who won just one set from their two matches in Group F.

After only winning one set from their three matches in Group C, Akim Bushe and Taran Deodath finished ahead of only three pairs, in 17th place. It was the first NORCECA tournament for the youngsters in their preparation for the World Under-21 Championships in Croatia in two months time.

There were two other T&T pairs in Guatemala, but the Nikesha Matthew/Rachel Noel and Tevin Joseph/Brandon Legall combinations did not compete.

Canadians Kacie Mactavish and Caleigh Whitaker defeated Jenny Kropp and Whitney Pavlik of the United States 21-17, 21-16 for their first NORCECA gold.

But it was the second title in succession for Lombardo Ontiveros and Juan Virgen as after being the champs three weeks before in the Dominican Republic, the Mexicans did it again when they edged Cubans Pina and Gonzalez 16-21, 21-16, 16-14.

After a seven-week break, the NORCECA tour will return on June 7 with the fourth stage in Mexico. The 11th and final leg will take place in Trinidad in mid-November.