Malkia Strikers bag Africa Nations Champs semi-final spot
- The national women's volleyball team Malkia Strikers on Wednesday defeated Tunisia in straight sets to storm the ongoing Africa Nations Volleyball Championships semi finals at the Kigali Arena in the Rwandan capital.
- The nine-time African champions continued with their fine form winning the second match on the bounce in sets of 25-20, 25-19 and 25-21 against the former champions to seal the last four spot, and they will face hosts Rwanda who top the Pool 'A' standings on six points.
Stanley Mativo in Kigali, Rwanda
The national women’s volleyball team Malkia Strikers on Wednesday defeated Tunisia in straight sets to storm the ongoing Africa Nations Volleyball Championships semi finals at the Kigali Arena here in the Rwandan capital.
The nine-time African champions continued with their fine form winning the second match on the bounce in sets of 25-20, 25-19 and 25-21 against the former champions to seal the last four spot, and they will face hosts Rwanda who top the Pool ‘A’ standings on six points.
The Kenyans face lowly ranked Burundi, who lost 3-0 against defending champions, on Thursday in their final pool B fixture.
Head coach Paul Bitok made only one change in his starting six which downed DR Congo 3-0 on Monday, bringing in middle blocker Gladys Ekaru for Lorine Chebet with setter Esther Mutinda once again keeping her position.
Tunisia, three-time champions, were first to come off the blocks leading 8-3 in the first technical timeout and this prompted Bitok to bring on captain Mercy Moim, who again had started from the bench, replacing Pamela Masaisai.
Malkia Strikers rallied to lead 16-14 in the second technical timeout and went ahead to clinch the first set with 25-20 points.
It was a neck-to-neck affair in the second set but the Tunisians fizzled out with Malkia Strikers leading 16-11 in the second time out and went ahead to win 25-19.
The North Africans tried to salvage their third set by improving on their reception and attacking, but the East Africans had other plans and they won the set 25-21 to extinguish their opponents’ chances of advancing.
“We now have to win against Burundi to continue with the winning spirit so as to keep the morale high ahead of the semi finals. My target remains to reach to the finals because we will automatically clinch the next year’s World Championships spots and then in the finals we will think about the title.
“The squad is young and I’m happy the transition is picking up well with all the new players ready to learn ,” said head coach Paul Bitok.
Promising setter Mutinda, a former Kwanthanze Secondary School almunus, once again left her imprint on a Malkia Strikers match for one piece of sumptuous play against Tunisia and it has led to reaction aplenty.
The Kenya Pipeline star has been a big bright spot for the national team in the last two matches as the young gun continues to take his game to another level, but Bitok believes she has her work cut out to cement her position in the squad.
“Mutinda has really brought the balance in the team and now we’ve the coordination which lacked in the first match against Cameroon. She is very promising and I challenge her to continue working hard because the position is very competitive, we’ve Wacu (Jane), Nekesa (Emmaculate) and Luseneka (Joy), who are all good.”
Team Manager David Kilundo also heaped praise on the youngster who cleared form four in 2017, saying she is the next big thing in that position.
“If she maintains that performance, then no doubt she will be in the squad going forward. She is young and it’s good she is bursting into the sports at a continental scene. This will help her alongside the other new players gain massive experience ahead of their would-be top careers in the national team.”
Mutinda alongside Kenya Prisons’ Luseneka are wearing Wacu’s shoes here in Rwanda after the seasoned-setter failed to overcome her injury.
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