Interim coach of the T&T senior women's volleyball team, Nicholson Drakes says he was very satisfied with the team's display at the just concluded 2019 Pan American Games Norceca Women’s Final-Four Qualifying Tournament which concluded in Puerto Rico, on Sunday.
With a spot at the Pan American Games carded for July 26 to August 11 in Lima, Peru at stake, the Krystle Esdelle-led "Calypso Spikers" went under to host Puerto Rico, 16-25, 13-25, 16-25.
Both T&T and Puerto Rico had beaten, Nicaragua and Guatemala in their two previous round-robin matches to set up the title decider.
Speaking on their return home, Drakes who was appointed coach of the team for the tournament following the resignation of long-serving Cuban-born coach Francisco "Panchee" Cruz after the team's debut showing at the FIVB World Championship in Japan last year, said he was more than happy with the showing by the players.
He was quick to point out his team was not at full strength for the tournament and credit must be given to both the core of senior players who were involved as well as the younger players who stepped up in their absence.
"We were without key personnel in Japan-based Sinead Jack, Renele Forde, Darlene Ramdin, Kelly-Ann Billingy, and Jalicia Ross-Kydd, all missing through various reasons, and very experienced members of the team as well.
"So in some areas of our game, we had to improvise with the younger players, in new roles mainly Afiya Alexander and Rachel Noel as a starting middle-blockers.
"They were able to do a lot of good things, but you could see they were lacking that bit of experience where you would pick up on some of the other teams set plays and anticipate their movements."
Included in the squad was former captain Esdelle along with fellow key spiker and European-based Thompson, Delicia Pierre, Afesha Olton and Latisha Morain, all members of the team which made its historic debut in Japan and Drakes said he was delighted with how they took the younger players under their wings.
He said, "Esdelle, Thompson and Olton have been around the team for quite some time and they all showed great leadership while USA-based duo Pierre and Nya Steele also played key roles in helping the team gel and perform as well as it did.
Looking ahead, Drakes who served as assistant coach to Cruz in Japan and has been part of the technical staff in a coaching role for close to a decade said he will gladly love to continue in the position if given the opportunity.
"I have not been informed of any changes to my role as yet so I am awaiting the outcome of Wednesday's T&T Volleyball Federation Annual
General Meeting to see what direction we will be heading in.
"We are hoping to resume training as early as possible whereby all players who were involved before will have a chance to impress as we look towards preparing the best team available for the Norceca Qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games.
T&T will also be competing in Norceca tournament for the Under-23 national teams, the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Youth and Junior Championships, as well as the Pan American Cup.
When the tournament ended on Sunday, T&T's outside spiker Thompson picked up two of the five individual awards won by T&T, ‘Best Scorer’ and ‘Second Best Attacker” while team-mate, Alexander copped the “Second Best Blocker” award; libero Olton, the “Best Digger” and Esdelle, the “Best Opposite”.