Olympians Díaz/González lead the pack in Varadero

Defending champions Nivaldo Díaz and Sergio Gonzalez of Cuba and Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes of United States are ready to jump into the pearly white sands of Varadero as the eighth tournament of the 2016 NORCECA Beach Volleyball Circuit takes place from July 14 to 16.

The internationally famous tourist destination is playing host to the NORCECA event for the sixth consecutive year as fourteen women’s pairs and fifteen men’s duos are registered to compete for the US$16,000 total prize money and also points in the accumulated standings towards the Central American and Caribbean Games and the Pan American Games.

 

Diaz and Gonzalez, who are bound to Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, took home the gold medals in the two stops held in Guaymas and La Paz, Mexico this year and returned to Guaymas in April to win (together with Karell Peña and Daisel Quesada) the men’s final of the NORCECA Continental Cup.

 

Last year, the Cuban duo won the event with an overwhelming 21-13, 21-13 victory against beat Canada’s Christian Redmann and Felipe Humana-Paredes, who once again are registered to play here after finishing second in North Bay, Canada two weeks ago.

 

Peña and Quesada have won the Punta Cana event held in Dominican Republic the last two years and are solid contenders for the men’s crown at home. Canadians Cameron Wheelan and Michael Plantinga who won in Guanacaste, Costa Rica and were second in Cayman Islands and third in North Bay are also among the favorites here.

 

Hughes and Claes who are fresh from winning the women’s segment at North Bay, Canada on July 3, were crowned last year in Varadero following their 21-18, 24-22 victory over Cubans Lianma Flores and Lidianni Echeverria. It was the second gold medal for Hughes in the history of the NORCECA Circuit and the first for Claes.

 

The women’s field in Varadero includes the U.S. team of Allison McColloch and Kelly Reeves, who finished first in Guatemala City and Guanacaste, Costa Rica this year and won also the silver medal in La Paz, Mexico, and bronze medals in Guaymas and North Bay.

 

Cuban Lianma Flores and Leila Martinez, who won the title in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and the bronze in Guatemala City, are also a strong team to be considered as top contender for one of the podium positions here.

 

Julie Gordon and Brandie Wilkerson of Canada, who finished second this year in Guatemala, Guaymas and North Bay, won the tournament in La Paz and are among the favorite teams in Varadero.

 

Teams registered to compete in Varadero:

 

Women

Canada-A (Julie Gordon/Brandie Wilkerson), Canada-B (Megan Nagy/Marie-Christine Lapointe), Cuba-A (Lianma Flores/Leila Martinez), Cuba-B (Yanisleidis Sanchez/Lidiannis Echeverría), Dominican Republic (Camila Monero/Jenny Paulino), El Salvador (Kathya Vasquez/María Vargas), Guadeloupe (Abigael Benros/Euriel Kiffer), Guatemala (Natalia Girón/Estefanie Bethancourt), Jamaica (Kai Wright/Danielle Perry), Mexico (Stephanie Burnside/Ana Ríos), Trinidad & Tobago (Rheeza Grant/Abby Blackman), United States-A (Sara Hughes/Kelly Claes), United States-B (Allison McColloch/Kelly Reeves), U.S. Virgin Islands (Amber Bennett/Melanie Valenciana).

 

Men

Canada-A (Michael Plantinga/Cameron Wheelan), Canada-B (Christian Redmann/Felipe Humana-Paredes), Cuba-A (Sergio Gonzalez/Nivaldo Diaz), Cuba-B (Karell Peña/Daisel Quesada), Curacao (Darwin Colina/Norandy Bonafasia), Dominican Republic (Luis Castillo/William Sanchez), El Salvador (Carlos Escobar/David Vargas), Guatemala (Andy Leonardo/Luis Garcia), Honduras (Manuel Serrano/Randall Vigil), Puerto Rico-A (Juan Ribas/Fernando Morales), Puerto Rico-B (Hector Soto/Kevin Rodriguez), Trinidad & Tobago (Daneil Williams/Simon Blake), United States-A (David McKienzie/Andrew Dentler), United States-B (Spencer McLachlin/Miles Evans), U.S. Virgin Islands (Jack Dietrich/Dillon Lesniak).

 

Past winners in Varadero:

 

2011

CUB Ion Canet/Nirian Sinal (W)

CUB Yaismel Borrell/Sergio González (M)

 

2012

CUB Kirenia Ballar/Onayamís Sinal (W)

CUB Karell Peña/Sergio González (M)

 

2013

CAN Melissa Humana/Taylor Pischke (W)

MEX Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen (M)

 

2014

CUB Lianma Flores/Leila Martinez (W)

USA Todd Rogers/Theo Brunner (M)

 

2015

USA Sara Hughes/Kelly Claes (W)

CUB Nivaldo Díaz/Sergio González (M)

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