The trinidad Guardian / T&T was blanked by Dominican Republic, 25-18, 25-22, 25-21, in the quarter-finals of the NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship on Friday night at the US Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs, USA.

The local team finished the preliminary round with a record of 1-2 and was scheduled to play in a classification match for fifth-seventh place last night against Martinique, a repeat of this year’s Senior Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championship final. Then hosts T&T retained its title with a come-from-behind 23-25, 25-17, 25-16, 25-23 win.

Middle blocker Marc Honore was best for T&T against Dominica Republic with nine points on six spikes and three blocks.

T&T coach Sean Morrison said: “We didn’t play a complete game today (Friday). They need to play together. We have one point when we’re down. Then when we’re up, we’re up. I want to play a lot stronger together when we’re down; keeping the momentum high, don’t let it drop. We had a lead in the second set and we let it go. Less errors win the game and we made more errors today.”

Dominican Republic, which led in spikes (44-34), blocks (6-5) and aces (4-0), improved to 2-1 and was to face Mexico (3-0) in yesterday’s semi-final.

Dominican Republic opposite Pedro Garcia led all scorers with 18 points on a match-high 17 attacks and one block. Middle blocker Jose Caceres added 12 points, including three blocks.

After losing the first set by seven, T&T took a 7-4 lead in the second set and had the match tied at 19-19 before Dominican Republic pulled ahead. T&T trailed by one at 22-21 before Dominican Republic got the win.

Dominican Republic coach Gladston Samuels said: “We don’t block. We don’t block. Sometimes good, sometimes … up and down the same every day, but we win and I’m happy. The match was very close. I think our team is better than them technically. Our team is better, but we don’t block. Tomorrow we have to play better, much better because Mexico is playing very good, very consistent. We have to play much better.”

Dominican Republic captain Wilfrido Hernandez said, “Even though we are a young core of players with 19 and 20 and 24-year-olds, we have had a really good roll with the team and you can see the improvement through the tournament now on our third match. Yesterday we had a meeting and we talked about the need to get more players involved in the offense to have a more cohesive offensive group. Today you could see the results. We were more in sync offensively.”

T&T captain Ryan Stewart said: “It’s not finished for us. We still have more work to do. We could still qualify for the next round. So that’s our goal now, for sure. We need to improve our counter attacks in the next match.”

A win against Martinique will see T&T play the winner of the other classification match between Guatemala and Costa Rica. The Guatemalans won its first match of the competition after topping St Lucia, 25-17, 25-15, 25-16 while the Costa Rica team was beaten by USA, 25-11, 25-7, 25-8.

The winners will battle for the fifth spot in the qualification tournament for next year’s FIVB World Championship. The fifth placed finisher will join Cuba and Puerto Rico in a second NORCECA qualifier to be played later this year from which the remaining two teams will complete the five vacancies.

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