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The Bahamas wins beach volleyball qualifier

The Bahamas moved one step closer to bringing the dream of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games a reality yesterday, in the sport of beach volleyball.

On Sunday, the sands in Trinidad and Tobago were definitely sizzling for the men’s national beach volleyball teams. Team members Muller Petit, Renaldo Knowles, Byron Ferguson and Prince Wilson spiked their way to the top and qualified for the second round of the North, Central America and Caribbean Confederation (NORCECA) Sub Zonal Olympic Beach Volleyball tournament. Petit and Knowles represented The Bahamas as Team ‘A’ and Ferguson and Wilson as Team ‘B’. Laval Sands and Tia Wilson also participated in the tournament but were unsuccessful in their bid for qualifying for the second round. Sands and Wilson competed as both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ squads for The Bahamas. Although it was two squads playing, at the end the results were tallied as one single country.

The Bahamas, which was ranked fifth in men’s play, took on the fourth seeded Barbados squad that comprised of Elwyn Oxley, Winston Gittens, Hughly Sealy and Jamaal Nedd. Oxley and Gittens were Team’A’and Sealy and Nedd represented Team’B’.

The Bahamas’ Team ‘A’ squad, Petit and Knowles, defeated Sealy and Nedd, Barbados’ ‘B’ Team, 21-11 and 21-18. Petit and Knowles also handed Oxley and Gittens a loss, 23-21 and 21-19. Both squads from Barbados defeated The Bahamas’ ‘B’ Team which resulted in a golden match that was won by The Bahamas’ ‘A’ Team, 15-11.

The win over Barbados lined the two Bahamian squads up against host country Trinidad and Tobago late Sunday evening. Team ‘A’ defeated Trinidad and Tobago’s Team ‘B’, 20-22, 21-15 and 15-11. The results for the remaining games were unavailable, but since then, it has been learnt that The Bahamas went on to defeat Trinidad and Tobago and secure the gold medal in the tournament.

Head Coach for The Bahamas, DeVince Smith, said the odds were set in favor of The Bahamas, which had trounced Jamaica in the quarter-finals on Saturday. The Bahamas’ ‘A’ Team defeated Jamaica’s ‘B’ Team. Jamaica’s ‘A’ Team defeated The Bahamas’ ‘B’ which forced the golden match played between The Bahamas’ ‘A’ and Jamaica’s ‘A’ squads. The Bahamas won that match.

“We are sitting in a good position for gold,” said Smith prior to the gold medal round. He noted that the country would have still moved on even if they lost the gold medal match. “This is a huge accomplishment for this country. It proves that we need to take the sport more seriously because we do have the players who are competing at a high level. We have already advanced to the next round which will be played next year.”

“Even though Prince and Byron have yet to win a game, but because it is per country and Renaldo and Muller have not lost as yet, the two teams will advance. The set against Trinidad and Tobago was the first that Renaldo and Muller have lost in the tournament, so that goes to show that we can compete. All that is required is the financial assistance from both the government and the federation’s end. This is history. This is the first time any male team has qualified in beach volleyball. These guys can make it far if they have the support and backing. All they need is a little more play under their belts.”

The top four teams in the NORCECA Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) region includes The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados. They have advanced to the next round of competition, and will now play the top four teams from the Eastern Volleyball Caribbean Association (EVCA) region. The zonal phase is a part of the Continental Beach Volleyball Cup which is the new qualifying system for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The winners of the zonal phase including the three runners-up will qualify for the Final Phase, June 18-24, 2012. The winner from this phase will automatically qualify for London. The second and third placed teams will move onto the FIVB World Beach Volleyball Championships, which will serve as a second shot at a spot in the Olympics.

A total of eight countries, Jamaica, Curacao, Aruba, Barbados, The Bahamas, Suriname, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Trinidad&Tobago, took part in the London 2012 Olympic Beach Qualifier Tournament.

“We are proud of our team and extend congratulations to them and best wishes,” said Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF) President Don Cornish in an e-mail. “The duo of Muller Petit from New Providence, and Renaldo Knowles from Grand Bahama, sealed our placement and brought home the gold.”

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