University of the West Indies (UWI) Blackbirds created history last night at the Wildey, St Michael Gymnasium when they became the first Division One team to gain promotion and win a major volleyball title the very same year.
UWI now boast of having the Goddard Enterprises Limited Division One Knockout trophy in their possession after dethroning Pan American Life Insurance Warrens Sports Club with scores of 25-9, 24-26, 19-25, 25-23 and 15-13 in their contest. The victory will be particularly memorable for UWI as they dethroned quality opposition in the Warrens Sports Club.
What made the victory even sweeter for Blackbirds dressed in their traditional black and yellow attire, was the fact that they had to work their way out of the jaws of defeat (1-2) to win the fourth and fifth sets respectively in order to register their 3-2 triumph.
Spearheaded by season attackers Sharon Bovell and Dania Hamilton who both graduated over the weekend, combined with great serves and attacking shots from Cherise Austin along with wonderful set pieces from Afiya Taylor, UWI dug deep to win the fourth set and force the decider. It was something that Warrens coach Mark Lewis was hoping to avoid.
That fifth set took spectators to the edge of their seats; it was that intense. The scores were tied 11-11 when former national captain Anthazia Mason and young Xhane Greenidge delivered strong attacking shots down the middle to break the deadlock and give Warrens a two-point lead 13-11.
UWI middle blocker Tenille Chapman who is only 13-years old and libero Tisha Solis, both gave good performances in yesterday’s final. With a deficit of two, UWI in a do-or-die situation needed to respond and Chapman was the person to do it with a great block to deny a shot from Warrens captain Talya Layne. Bovell followed up with a ripper that greeted the fingertips of Rhe-Ann Niles who failed to get her body behind the ball as the scores were once again tied at 13-13.
Warrens coach Lewis decided to call timeout in an effort to break the opposition’s rhythm but that strategy failed as UWI carried on with the momentum and were able to score the next two points compliments of two fantastic serves from Rachell-Ann Bryant who carried UWI to victory.
That victory meant so much to UWI that even their coach John Stuart, a former national player, was speechless as he basked in his moment of glory as the man who led UWI to their maiden knockout trophy at that level.
Speaking after the game, former national player Bovell said UWI worked hard all season and their determination persevered in the end.
Speaking about the game plan, she said: “Our game plan was to serve strong because we know Warrens is not a team that we could take likely. They have experienced players, good servers, so we had to serve strong to break down the attack. It did not go as well as we planned it and we did make a lot of unforced errors which give them momentum back into the game. So we had to push even harder to pull back to win.”
The men’s final also went down to a five-sets showdown and defending men’s champion, Chargers, under the guidance of coach Shawn Gibson, retained bragging rights as knockout kings for a second consecutive year.
Led by captain, Alain London, Chargers fought well to stave off an equally matched Deacons side coached by Andrew Culpepper.
With the return of overseas-based player Kode Thompson, Deacons’ attack was strengthened if only on paper as they wasted a 2-1 advantage, with Chargers returning forcefully in the last two sets to clinch the game 25-23, 23-25, 20-25, 25- 14 and 15-9.
The presence of Deacons trio Thompson, Kyle Browne and Ahkeem Mayers stood out on court but Chargers had two of the best setters in Barbados, namely London and former national player Dale Addison. Those two men showed their versatility attacking from the outside and showing lots of aggression with it especially London. Coming on to the latter stages of the match, Romel Agard was fired up, as he too also blasted away at Deacons’ faulty defence.
Speaking after the match, London said: “We know that Deacons would have kept coming at us so we had to keep fighting to the very end. Our game plan was to serve strong, we tried to rotate the weakest passer and we just try to push it there as much as possible and then after we realized we were getting our serves going, our blocks came into play.”