MVP Velazquez leads Achievers to Spikedown 2k19 title
By Avenash Ramzan
Led by an MVP performance from ‘smiling assassin’ Juan Velazquez, Achievers turned in an overall dominant performance to defeat Eagles in straight sets and win the first-ever Spikedown 2K19 volleyball title on Sunday evening at the National Gymnasium, Mandela Avenue.
Brightly decked in neon orange, Achievers staved off some moments of pressure from Eagles to win 25-23, 25-11, 25-20 and earn the title of champions of the two-day event, and bragging rights for a year.
In the opening exchanges, Eagles surged ahead with a 4-1 lead, but Achievers clawed their way back to take the lead at 16-14. Eagles though, were not going to go down without a fight, storming back to level the contest 22-22.
But with the possibility of an exciting finish, Achievers pulled ahead to sneak set one.
Set two gave a glimpse of the possible outcome as Achievers raced to a 10-1 advantage. Eagles then went on a decent run, closing the gap at 11-6. However, Achievers had done enough in the initial phase and close out the set quite easily.
With a two-set advantage, Achievers were hot favourites to take the title and they didn’t disappoint, emerging the victors in a closely-fought third set.
In the third place playoff, Port Mourant Training Centre (PMTC) defeated Bartica Warriors 3-1. PMTC took the first two sets 25-23, 25-20, before Bartica Warriors snapped the streak with an exciting 29-27 success in the third.
PMTC then ensured the third place trophy was going to take the long drive to Berbice, carving out a 25-16 scoreline in the fourth.
Earlier in the day, Achievers had booked their place in the semi-finals following a 3-1 success over Bartica Warriors, while Eagles advanced to the championship game after pipping PMTC 3-2.
At the presentation ceremony which followed, Velazquez, who captained Achievers and was their playmaker throughout the championship, was adjudged MVP, Best Server and Best Outside Hitter, while Trevon McRae (Best Middle Blocker), Dester Hoppie (Best Setter) and Quacy Matheson (Best Opposite Hitter) won the other individual awards.
Velazquez was enthusiasm personified throughout the competition and his ebullience on court, even when his team was losing points, seemed to rub off on his teammates.
“It’s been amazing to win a big competition; very grateful,” Velazquez said. “It’s not a one-man show, but with the help of my teammates I think the collectiveness is what won it for us.”
“The competition was really tight for us. The first two games we had were very tight. The team from Bartica and PMTC give us a real fight.”
Reflecting on Eagles performance in the final, Matheson said, “Honestly, I think we could have done better, but it is what it is. I would say our passing wasn’t up to par. We need to work on that a bit more. I think with that everything else will come into play.”
The frank assessment aside, Matheson said he was confident they could have beaten Achievers in the final.
“Yes. We’ve beaten them already. I thought we could have done it again.”
Addressing the teams at the conclusion, Director of Sport Christopher Jones, who played a significant role in the execution of the tournament by having the National Sports Commission partner with coordinators Kristoff Shepperd and Andre Jagnandan, said, “as anticipated, this was one of the most exciting volleyball tournaments we’ve had.”
“I would like to commend Andre and Kristoff for the work they have done. The youngsters essentially present themselves as representing volleyball and (stating) the need for us to have a resurgence in the game. I can assure you that with the two of them, with the support of the Guyana Volleyball Federation, likely, hopefully, before the conclusion of 2019, we should be seeing an all-female tournament,” Jones indicated.
“So I want to place on record now that the support is there, just come and tell me when, we know where, and the support is there.”
Meanwhile, Shepperd said the main aim of the tournament was to promote the sport and that objective was met.
“This tournament was a success. Players really enjoyed the level of competition that we had here today. When Spikedown 2020 comes around next year we hope to see the Gymnasium packed with people,” Shepperd stated.
President of the Guyana Volleyball Federation, Levi Nedd, labelled the initiative by Shepperd and Jagnandan “excellent” and lauded Jones and the National Sports Commission for their unflinching support over the two days.
The other main partner in the initiative was the Trophy Stall.