Trinidad & Tobago and hosts Cuba started with easy straight-sets victories at the NORCECA-F tournament of the FIVB Women's World Championship held at Ciudad Deportiva Coliseum.
Trinidad & Tobago swept Guatemala 25-22, 25-21, 25-12 and Cuba demolished Nicaragua by a score of 25-9, 25-13, 25-16 in opening-day action.
The Trinidadians relied on the power of their blocking as they outscored their Central American opponents 12-2 in that category.
Kelly-Ann Billingy topped the winning side with 12 points, 10 coming via spikes, while Darlene Ramdin contributed 10 points, including three service aces. Krystle Esdelle and Sinead Jack, who scored 9 and 8 points respectively, recorded three blocks apiece.
Cuba, the heavy favorite to win the tournament and the only ticket available to the Final Round in Japan next year, recorded 10 blocks and 9 aces.
Yanelis Santos was the top Cuban scorer with 14 points, including two blocks and three service aces. Rachel Sanchez added 8 points (all in the third set) and Nancy Carrillo had two aces among her seven points.
Francisco Cruz's team showed superior tactical and technical ability compared to its Central American rivals and also better physical preparation.
"I am happy battling at least for second place in the pool," said Cruz.
"We didn't work well in the reception because the Trinidadians' serves caused a lot of damage," said Guatemala captain Aneliesse Burmester.