Barbados’ men’s junior volleyball team not only cemented their status as the undisputed kings of regional volleyball last night, they also created history in the process.
When the curtains came down at the 10th Caribbean Junior Volleyball Championships at the Wildey Gymnasium, the hosts became the first team to win the championships in successive years when they defeated Trinidad and Tobago [T&T] in straight sets 25-15, 25-19, 25-22 to the delight of Barbadians who came out dressed in their blue, yellow and black.
Playing with an injured right shoulder, Barbados captain Andriy Stapleton turned in a big performance on the night to finish with 15 points, including 13 spikes.
However, at the end of the night the award for Most Valuable Player went to talented outside player Ahkeem Mayers.
The son of former national player Roger Mayers, he also captured the award for Best Opposite and was among three other Barbadians to receive special prizes.
Paul Doughty was named Best Setter, Shamar Bishop second middle blocker and Stephen Packer Most Outstanding Libero.
Speaking with the media after his team’s success, an overjoyed Stapleton said the game plan was to finish the game in three sets.
“I told myself we have to finish this in three sets, so everyone has to step up and do what we have to do pull together. I told myself at the end it was going to be worth it.
“The game plan was to finish the game in three sets. We knew we had to block [Marlon] Phillip [T&T’s best outside player] and we [would] have the game under control,” said 18-year-old Stapleton, the son of former national players Valmay Stapleton and Andrew Culpepper.
Phillip, T&T’s captain, ended the finals with a game high 22 points. He was also named Top Outside Player and deservingly so, but could not stop the defending champions from doing the double.
Barbados, who didn’t drop a set in the competition while playing unbeaten, already had a comfortable 2-0 lead when Stapleton with one of his vicious attacks down the middle, sent an early message in the third set that they intended to close out the match.
But the visitors were not about to give up that easily and took the lead 16-13 at the second technical time out. However, Barbados’ defense kept T&T in check and with the score locked at 20, two of Barbados’ most destructive players Adam Niles and Carlos Cyrus produced a fantastic block at the net to put their team in the lead 21-20.
It was a battle to the end and with Barbados leading 23-22, Cyrus sent a powerful spike through T&T’s defense, and then followed that up by teaming up with Niles to block a shot that caused local volleyball fans to erupt in celebration.
It was indeed a memorable performance from the home lads, but it was also a bitter sweet night for the hosts as the girls went down to Haiti in straight sets 25-15, 25-8, 25-19 who captured their first-ever title at these championships.Barbados coach Patrick Oxley explained that while the game plan was to start strong and put early pressure on Haiti, that never materialized.
“We changed our line up, changed our players, we really tried. [But] again the passing did not go as good as we thought, so it didn’t allow our offense to flow, and that put us on the backfoot,” he said.
The team did have something to smile about as 13-year-old Dashonta Addison, the daughter of former national players Dale Addison and Sharon Bovell, was awarded for her magnificent set pieces throughout the competition.
After being devastated by hurricane Sandy four years ago, Haiti showed that it does not matter where you come from, or what you have been through, and that once you put your mind to something, anything is possible.
At the end of the night they not only took the coveted title but also captured five specials awards.
Solaida Pierre was named the Most Outstanding Player and Best Attacker, Top Middle Blocker went to Djoulissa Mathe, Stravenkina Fenelus was named Best Libero and Best Opposite went to Marie Juliette Bayol.
The Most Outstanding Players from the championship from left Ahkeem Mayers
of Barbados and Solaida Pierre of Haiti.
The bronze medal went to the Curacao men who defeated Haiti 25-20, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-13, while Trinidad and Tobago girls won 25-21, 26-24, 25-23 over the United States Virgin Islands.
Haiti’s girls won their first ever Caribbean Junior Volleyball title.