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Slow-starting Guadeloupe rally big to claim spot in semis

KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 29, 2017 - Guadeloupe overcame a very slow start and a massive error count to rally from behind and beat Curacao 3-2 in their International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Second round World Championship Qualifier on Saturday night here at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

The French-speaking territory basically sauntered out of the blocks and appeared to be easy pickings after being blown away 25-15 by the talented Curacao.

In that game only, the winners piled up more of their 53 errors, a stark contrast to the Curacao team, which gave up 29.

This Qualifier is also the Caribbean Association of Volleyball Associations (CAZOVA) Women’s Championship, of which Trinidad and Tobago are the defending champions.

Eight nations are participating and Trinidad and Tobago are already guaranteed qualification to Third Round World qualifying. The highest ranked team in this championship other than Trinidad and Tobago will secure that other spot to the NORCECA play-offs that will be held between September and October.

Trinidad and Tobago will host one of three zones, which will comprise four teams apiece. The top two, six in all, will advance to 2018’s World Championship in Japan.

Twice before, Curacao had toyed with death, only to survive a five-setter. This time there would be no turning back as Guadeloupe tightened the screws.

Gradually, Guadeloupe slowly begun to find their rhythm and the sequence of plays got longer and more competitive, through some excellent defending by both teams. Importantly, their big player, Leslie Figere-Turiaf, started finding her hitting range and they tied the match 1-1 with a 25-18 second set victory, fell behind again after losing the third 25-21.

Thereafter, there would be no turning back as Guadeloupe maintained their momentum and composure, while the pressure started to tell on Curacao, and held their nerves while coming up big to win the remaining sets 25-22, 15-12.

The Guadeloupe contingent and its captain, Delphine Stephens, celebrated the win wildly.

She said: “I don’t have any words , I’m really happy that we got past this step because it was very difficult for us seeing that we lost our first two games, so now we are back in the game very much.

“We’re onto the semi-finals … we will go into the semi-finals how we are, as you see, happy and motivated like today.”

Big-hitting Figere-Turiaf led Guadeloupe’s scoring with 19 points, which included six big kills, while Sandra Ramier slammed five kills from middle front in her eight points to provide backup support. Both players equally shared six blocks and Amandine Mauricette chipped in with seven points.

Curacao would have been left disappointed after huge attacking contributions from captain Christine Anthony and Samira Luis, who scored 25 and 21 points, respectively. Anthony rained down all her points in kills, while Luis spiked 18.

Curacao’s head coach, Rigolette Thode, labelled it a ‘tough loss.

“A tough loss,” he said. “But if a team has 21 bad serves you can’t win a game. In such a competition if you have 21 bad serves you can’t win a game. I think the girls had some pressure on them by serving and at home when we practice serving we were serving very good. But it’s disappointing, it’s disappointing.”

Thode continued: “We have the team to go further but the serve killed us, the serve killed us, it killed us.

“Congratulations to Guadeloupe, they played a very good game.”

Guadeloupe’s defence played big down the stretch and despite supporting efforts from Sherdelys Muerlens (eight points) and Jewengely Hart (seven), Curacao were never allowed to regain their form against a team that kept growing in confidence and their game.

“Today we were all together as a team, compared to the other days when we were this one over so, that one over so and today we just pulled together,” said Stephen.

“We played better than the rest of the games because we put together what the coaches wanted us to do for the start and that was the reason we won today,” added the Guadeloupe captain.

They will now meet hosts Jamaica in this evening’s semi-final, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Trinidad and Tobago will meet Suriname in the other semi-final, which is set to start at 6:00 p.m.