Malkia Strikers extinguish Cameroon to win gold
Gilbert Kiprotich in Rabat, Morocco
Malkia Strikers successfully defended the African Games title after whipping Cameroon 3-1 in the finals held today at the Salle Bouazzoui arena in Salle, Morocco and probably thus bag the 11th and last gold for Kenya
The final was another series of unending duels between the two volleyball titans in the continent and as any other final, the match lived to its billing with many thrills and spills.
It was Cameroon started on the front leg edging Kenya 25-12 in the first after a nervy start from the Kenyans.
Malkia Strikers head coach opted to make a few changes on the starting line-up that destroyed Cameroon dropping youngster Sharon Chepchumba and Janet Wanja for Edith Wisa and Jane Wacu respectively.
It was the introduction of Chepchumba in the second set replacing Evelyn Makuto that changed the fortunes of Malkia Strikers as they recovered to beat Cameroon 25-15 to go level on set a piece.
Kenya would go on to narrowly win the third set 26-24 before finishing the business with 25-21 win in the fourth and final set to win 3-1.
While Kenya beat Cameroon by the same score line when the two teams met at the group stages of this tournament, today’s match was a much closer affair.
It was also the first title for Bitok who only took charge of the team two weeks prior to the championship and the former Rwandan coach is more than happy with his achievement.
“Since I came back to the team my intention was to help the girls return to the top where they are and I am happy we have done that today. It was a difficult encounter especially when we were trailing but it was experience that played part for us as we came from behind in many parts of game,” said Bitok.
It was a sweet revenge for Malkia Strikers who prior to Friday’s final had struggled to beat the West Africans on two consecutive African Volleyball Championships recently atoningly losing 3-2 to them in Cairo, Egypt at this year’s championships.
Kenya and Cameroon had been paired in the same group with Malkia Strikers getting the better of the West Africans 3-1 to finish top of the group after also beating Senegal while Cameroon finished second after thumping Senegal.
Malkia Strikers would go on to dismantle Nigeria 3-0 in the semis while Cameroon edged out hosts Morocco in another semifinal clash to set up another series of unending finals between the two eternal foes.
Bitok who now assumes the role of a care-taker coach revealed that he will be holding crunch talks with the volleyball leadership in order to decide if he will remain as the head coach or serve in another capacity.
“I am now going to hold discussion with the federation I just came to the team when the atmosphere was not good and right now everything is good and I must praise the players for a work well done. The Olympics qualifiers is next and we will see how it goes,”he said.
Today’s final was also a repeat of the 2015 African Games finals where Kenya beat Cameroon with the same score line of 3-1.
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