Barbados’ junior volleyball team carried out the instructions of their manager Valmay Stapleton to the proverbial ‘T’ and were rewarded with a sweet three-peat victory in the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association’s (CAZOVA) Under-21 championships in Suriname.
In what was a rematch of Saturday’s opening fixture, the Bajan lads created history on Tuesday night when they defeated Haiti 25-10, 25-17, 25-16. The Haitians were tipped as favourites before the competition got underway.
What made it so special is that Barbados now stands as the first ever island to win the competition, repeat as champs and not lose a set in a very fast final, which only lasted for one minute short of an hour.
The Grantley Adams International Airport was a hive of activity last night as the volleyballers were one of three national teams returning home in the winners’ circle.
Stapleton told Barbados TODAY the team’s main goal had been to uphold the legacy of Barbados as junior Caribbean volleyball titans.
“My pep talk to the guys was simply that they had a legacy to protect and in the process of trying to protect it (I laid down the ground rules). They wanted to do what their predecessors had done before in ensuring that the three straight record kept going.
“I said to them when you are champions everyone is gunning for you. They’re not going to give you anything on a platter, you have to fight for it. I said to them one of the motivating factors was to send a strong signal to their opponents so on opening night we needed that win. They needed to tell them that we are not here to give up our cup but to defend it,” she said.
Describing the victory as extraordinary, Stapleton said she believes the inclusion and regular playing time in Barbados’ top division for the juniors had definitely contributed to their success.
“Previously before, what would be responsible for the dominance among our juniors was that we normally enter them as a team in division one competition. It is to ensure that they get additional practice. This year we didn’t do that because we find that we were putting too much pressure on them. Some of them had to double at night so returning them to their various clubs still paid off because the clubs ensured the players played a starting role,” Stapleton said.
Former national player and assistant coach Elwyn Oxley admitted that despite the opening night victory, Barbados didn’t start the competition as planned and he was extremely shocked with the team’s performance in the final match.
“Going into the tournament with the calibre of players we had, I thought we started slowly but during the competition day by day, the guys really improved. Leading up to the finals they reached the peak that we wanted them to reach.
“To be honest we knew that they were going to win but the performance really surprised me. After the game in the locker room I told them that I have been around volleyball for years, I was a player myself, and if I had to choose out of the top five performances I would definitely include this one,” he said.
Oxley mentioned that the three-peat would help to influence future junior teams to have the mentality of champions.
“This victory will definitely serve as a boost for our future junior teams to do well. What we do is that when we are grooming players we like to use the last junior tournament as an example for what we stand for. We have done well in many years throughout the Caribbean at all levels. So we use these tournaments to influence the younger ones coming on board,” he said.
Barbados also claimed four individual awards at the tournament. Chad Callender copped the Best Setter award, Akeel Oxley won the Most Valuable Player, Best Outside Power Hitter went to Ashe´ Oxley while Akeil Williams was named the Best Blocker.