After the amazing rush of standing on top of the podium, we were forced to regain our focus and settle into the Sheraton Presidente in San Salvador, El Salvador. It is hot, humid and there are a lot of guns!!
The hotel has assisted in making this tournament bearable. I hate to go to negative town because El Salvador is a developing nation in many different facets, however, the standards we have grown accustomed to have not been met by a long shot. Our training on the first day was tragic as the NORCECA doesn't believe in sign up times for training! There were 10 teams on one court for about an hour and a half and then we squeaked in with USA and Mexico for a solid sideout before the shut the training down. The net had soooo many holes, the sand was super shallow (black volcanic sand) and it was by far the hottest sand I have ever set foot on. It clouded over for a bit so it cooled and it was a mediocre start to an interesting voyage.
We were super bummed that our tournament was going to be played in their national training facility (mentioned above) which was built in 1970's. Luckily, for the opening meeting, we went to a mall and discovered there is a completely different venue in the parking lot of the largest shopping mall of El Salvador. The site is interesting to say the least and they did not build a warm up court for the athletes. There is a massive stage where they have hosted concerts over the weekend and today is a national holiday so it should be packed. The food has been hit and miss and there is no air conditioning for us white boys to rest in!
Our draw for the tournament was a beauty because the NORCECA ranking system resets after the first event of the year. Since we won the first stop on Grand Cayman, we had the first seed and our draw worked out to be Honduras, Costa Rica and the Jamaica to get into the semi finals. The first two games weren't very competitive but our game against Jamaica was even due to the extreme heat and humidity.
The Jamaican boys are both 6'7 and solid athletes. They serve big and hit big but lack in other areas of the game. Our ball control was superior but the heat really evened out the score. We won the first set handily but the second set dropped a notch on our side as fatigue set in. Ray's sensitive skin tone and redheaded sun prowess failed him slightly and we dropped the second set. Third set was a different story as Ray has the ability to pick his game up in 3rd sets regardless of the way he feels. I am sure he felt worse than in the second set but he was able to gather his remaining energy and focus them on winning at all costs. I hit standing on two's frequently to give him some rest and save some jumps and we went up 4-1 to start. Our comfortable lead grew with some passing errors on their part and then to close it out, I blocked them 3 times in a row. Ray then went to the bench and vomited. Somehow the mango's he ate for breakfast were completely undigested forcing me to believe we don't function properly in extreme heat!!!
We rested in our air conditioned room for the rest of the day and then returned to the mall to watch USA vs the Dominican Republic. The winner of that game would slide into our semi final match up so it was important for us to study that game. The USA team of Matt Prosser and Ty Loomis won as they out blocked and dug the athletic yet green Dominican team. We match up well with the USA team and it will be our most challenging match of our 2010 NORCECA competitions.
We are three hours from game time right now and it is time for us to prepare fully. Wish us luck and thank goodness the semis will be matched up fairly with respect to skin tone and heat capacity.
Time to get big and loud,