Progressive men and All Ah We women are the kings and queens of the inaugural 2015 Caribbean Food and Volleyball Festival, played last night at the Wildey Gymnasium.
Deacons made it into both the men’s and women’s final but failed in the attempt to capture the grand prize of $3 000 in the respective categories as Progressive and All Ah We trounced their respective opponents in straight sets.
Former national player and captain of All Ah We Shari Mathews and Chioke Holder of Progressive were named most valuable players respectively.
Coordinator for the festival Mark Lewis told the media after the finals that the actual volleyball competition was a success but where the organization and food aspect was concerned that was not the case.
“The level of play was awesome. I think the team that I had organizing on the floor executed to a tee. From an organizational point of view it was not so good. I thought I would have had a lot more support from corporate Barbados and even the people in the initial stages who said they would have been a part of this, at the last minute they pulled out and that was disappointing. So we just had to make do with what we have.
“The food aspect of it did not come off and we had a couple of exhibitors who had to pull out at the last minute because of some unforeseen circumstances and had to withdrew their sponsorship and that in itself created some hiccups for us. We [however] pulled through and the chef from Jamaica did shrimp and jerk chicken as promised so that was a success for the patrons who turned out,” Lewis said.
A former national volleyball captain for Jamaica, Lewis explained that he was not certain whether he would host another festival in Barbados for 2016 and said it would take an alternative venue outside of the Gymnasium for the festival to remain in Barbados.
“I don’t think volleyball will survive if the Gymnasium is the only venue available,” said Lewis, who currently plays division one volleyball for Chargers.
He added: “I was approached by a company in Antigua to take this there next year and I am thinking if Antigua wants this for next year then I should really think about taking it there next year.”
Despite those setbacks patrons got their monies worth on the court when four local teams made it into the finals and as expected Progressive and Deacons had the crowd’s attention in the men’s showdown.
The best of five sets showdown did not reach that far as Progressive won 25-21, 25-20 and 25-19, thanks to coach Marcus Green’s game plan that was implemented to perfection.
“We knew their weaknesses [Deacons] and I tried my best to exploit them and I give my team a plan and we did very well,” Green said.
Progressive had the likes of national captain Alain London, Shawn Simpson and Fabian Cox who were unstoppable on the outside especially Simpson who had a good night.
With a 2-0 lead to Progressive going into the third set Deacons apparently came up with a strategy to have their outside player Andriy Stapleton refrain from hitting big. Instead whenever the opportunity presented itself Stapleton would produce some soft touches back over the nets. A vigilant Progressive kept their eyes on the danger man and had their captain Akeem Payne, Holder and Simpson at the nets to block him.
Then to add fuel to the fire Simpson was even more fired up in that set when a spectator in the crowd shouted that the six-foot national player couldn’t play. Simpson made nonsense of the comments with some giant spikes down the middle that Deacons’ defenders were simply unable to handle.
Progressive led 16-8 at the second technical time out and once play resumed they continued their momentum even though Deacons were able to scrape a few points from 24-14 to 24-19 when Green decided to bring back on his ace player Simpson who finished the game quickly with another missile down the middle.
Earlier All Ah We won over Deacons women 25-15, 25-15 and 25-16. The former played with a lineup that consisted of all ex-national players. Mathews said having fun was the key to the team’s success and that experience was what counted on the day.
“We came in with a plan to win but we came in to win in three straight and we knew that we had to keep being aggressive and going hard at them all the time,” Mathews said, while adding All Ah We would be looking to continue playing together going forward.