Jermaine Lannaman, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's women's hockey team yesterday failed in their bid to qualify for next year's Pan American Games when they were clipped 2-1 by regional giants Cuba in the second game of their best-of-three play-off series at the Mona hockey field.
Needing to win to keep their hopes of advancing alive after losing the first game 3-0, Jamaican were sent packing courtesy of a brace from forward Kenia Guerra, who netted in the on either side of half-time.
"It was a much better display from the girls today, and I am proud of them," said Jamaica's coach, Dr Michelle Holt.
"It was like we got over the stage fright, and showed up. We still showed a bit of panic in the early stages of the game, but overall we fought well.
"In fact, had it not been for what we consider to be a dubious second goal, we could have at least come away with a draw, which would have made the third game much more than of academic interest," she added.
Parading yet again a fairly young team against the reigning Central America and Caribbean (CAC) Games champions, Jamaica started off slowly, and were pegged in their half for most of the opening 10 minutes.
During this period, the Cubans won seven penalty-corners, and went close to scoring on several occasions, however, it was not until the 21st minute that they got just reward.
Lurking inside the penalty area, Guerra was the beneficiary of a pass from another penalty-corner, and with two defenders closing her down, she blasted home, much to the delight of her team's vocal, flag-waving band of supporters.
Jamaica came out more purposeful in the second half, and looked better, especially in the middle of the park. However, faulty final passes and an inability to stop the Cubans' skilful dribbling saw them going further behind in the 53rd minute when Guerra netted her second from another penalty-corner.
There were protests from the Jamaican players that the ball hit Guerra's foot, which would have meant a foul, but the referees overlooked their appeal.
The home team did pull one back, however, through the valiant effort of vice-captain Shakeela Elliott in the 60th minute, but it was a case of a little too late.
"It was a magnificent performance from our girls," said Cuba's coach, Hilario Diaz, speaking through an interpreter.
"Jamaica played a better game, but we were able to keep our composure and remain strong, and that pulled us through," he declared.
The final match in the three-match will be played today. Jamaica will next turn their attention to next year's Pan American Cup Challenge, before focusing on qualification to the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games.