Cartagena improves Cayman Islands team


GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands, September 13, 2012  - Juan Cartagena has made big inroads with local volleyball players in a limited time.


The North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation instructor is being credited for the Cayman Islands’ recent success on the NORCECA circuit. Female pairing Cristin Alexander and Jennifer Bily placed fifth at the tour’s seventh stop.


Alexander, 25, points to the Puerto Rican’s instruction as the reason for the high finish.


“The reason we did so well is because of top coaching from Juan,” Alexander said. “He was training us for three weeks leading up to the tournament. We want to continue to get better. It’s easy to go back to old habits without someone like a (national) coach keeping up the intensity.”


The duo made history for Cayman in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico by becoming the first local team to finish in the top five at a NORCECA circuit event. Alexander and Bily advanced to the quarterfinals against 11 other teams representing nine nations.


They would go 3-1 during group play, beating the US Virgin Islands, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic while losing to Canada. The pair lost in the quarterfinals to Mexico.


Cartagena came to Cayman for the first time back in February for a youth clinic at the University College of the Cayman Islands. He returned last month for another clinic at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre. On both occasions, the level five Fédération Internationale de Volleyball coach worked with prodigies aged 10-18, like April Ebanks and Chante Smith-Johnson.


Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation Public Relations Officer Carl Brown states Cartagena greatly impacted the sport locally.


“A big reason why we’re doing well is because of Cartagena,” Brown said. “Whenever an instructor comes, our ranking rises. All of the rankings put us in line to enter bigger competitions and puts Cayman closer to the epicentre of world volleyball.


“It provides an inch forward for the world championships, which Cayman is participating in and hopes to host. Reaching the Olympics one day gets closer with these sort of rankings.”


For Alexander and Bily, it’s the second straight quarterfinals berth on the NORCECA circuit after being knocked out at the same stage by Cuban pair Kirenia Ballard and Onayamís Sinal back in June.


In Mayaguez, Cayman were also represented by the male pairing of Shervin Rankin and Richard Campbell. The duo was eliminated in the opening stages after losses to Canada and Aruba.


The eighth stop of the circuit is slated to be the US city of San Diego on 26 September-1 October. From there, the tour is expected to head to Trinidad and Tobago on 10-15 October, Antigua on 17-22 October and Puerto Rico on 7-12 November.


Alexander states Cayman would be well served with a national coach in time for next year’s tour.


“How would we do next year without a national coach? It’s difficult to say. If things stay the same, our chances of breaking the top three is very, very low. We really want to break through and continue to compete.”

Written by Matthew Yates of CayCompass.com