USVI overcomes Raphael absence to spike first Under-21 women’s title

PLEASANTVILLE, San Fernando, Trinidad, July 10, 2022: US Virgin Islands overcame the absence of injured captain Alek-Wek Raphael to beat  Suriname 3-0 (25-22, 25-9, 25-19) to secure their first ever title in the 2021 Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association(CAZOVA) Junior Women (Under-21) Championship at the Southern Regional Indoor Sports Arena (SRISA). 

With Raphael picking up a torn left-knee tournament ending injury when both teams met in their final round-robin encounter on Saturday, which also ended in a 3-0 win for USVI, all eyes were on the round-robin table-toppers to see how they would cope without their inspirational level. 

However, despite some early resistance from Suriname, the US Virgin Islanders who previous best finish came in 2011/2012 as runner-up to Trinidad and Tobago used a well balanced team effort to come away with the win which earned them the  spot at the NORCECA Under-21 Women’s Continental Championship from April 16 to 24, 2023 in the USA. 

An emotional Isaac Raphael, coach of the new champions said it was an amazing feeling to climb the ladder as champions. 

He added, “I have been champions with so many teams before, but this is the first time I have reached these heights with my country and the feeling is just amazing.” 

Raphael added, “Throughout the tournament the girls have been amazing and even when their captain (Alek-Wek) went down with the injury they never buckled but instead lifted their game to another level, and I’m very proud of them.” 

Team captain, Alek-Wek who watched on from the sidelines said never for one moment she doubted the capabilities of her teammates despite her absence. 

“Even though I was not part of the action today, I’m just as excited because I know we have worked hard and to see that we have been finally able to win the title is an incredible feeling.”