YEAR 2017: So close yet so far for Malkia Strikers
For the steely Kenya national volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, it was a tale of so close yet so far as they qualified to represent Africa, alongside Cameroon, in the FIVB World Nations Championship to be hosted next year in Japan after the two African giants claimed the two top positions in the African Nations Championships held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in October.
However, it was a bitter pill to swallow for the African queens as they failed to win a 10th African title, after they lost in the final to the first rising West Africans, hosts Cameroon, at the Palais des Sports Hall in Yaoundé, by three straight sets in the biennial competition in September 2017.
The two nations were considered favourites to win the title. Kenya, nine- times record African winners, under the tutelage of Japheth Munala , was expected to defend her crown as they boasted of vast years of dominance and big guns like Jane Wacu and Janet Wanja, who have over a decade’s experience.
Nonetheless, the West Africans were vouched to pose a higher threat in the competition as they had invested heavily in training abroad prior to the tourney, and were boosted by their participation in the Olympic Games and the Grand Prix which Kenya missed out on. The vast support of their home fans also catapulted them to glory.
Despite the loss, Kenya Prisons duo, skipper Mercy Moim and Edith Wisa, bagged the best attacker and best blocker accolades respectively.
It wasn’t the first time both players bagged individual accolades. Wisa won the same award at the African Club Championships after inspiring Kenya Prisons to a third-place finish in Tunisia in April this year, while at the Zone-five African Nations Championship qualifiers in Nairobi, Moim bagged the best attacker award.
In the tourney, Kenya Prison’s right attacker Emmaculate Chemtai also made her Malkia Strikers debut. The left-handed hot prospect is expected to grow into one of the best right attackers in Kenya.
Experienced and evergreen Kenya Pipeline setter, Wanja, also made a comeback from an early retirement after head coach Japheth Munala recalled her.
Wanja, who has over 17 years experience, combined well with her fellow experienced Seychelles based, Anse Royal setter, Jane Wacu, to terrorize opponents and motivate their teammates in the tourney.
In the wake of the tourney, head coach Japheth Munala, who also serves as Pipeline’s head coach, bemoaned deplorable training conditions at the Kasarani Gymnasium in the run-up to the tourney.The girls had been forced to do with inadequate training time, interrupted by constant power and water outages,which he believed affected their performances.
Despite the year’s setbacks, Munala is however optimistic that the team being experienced, and having quality players, will bounce back and prove their worth at the World Nations Championship next year.
As such, all eyes will be on the queens as they battle it out against Serbia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Kazakhstan in Pool ‘D’ of the World Nations Championship in Japan which serves of from September 29- October 20th , 2018.
Full squad that travelled to Cameroon
Mercy Moim (captain)
Head coach – Japheth Munala
Assistant Coach – Dorcas Ndasaba
Technical Director – David Lung’aho
Kenya v Nigeria 3-0 (25-16, 25-8, 25-10)
Kenya v Senegal 3-0 (25-21, 28-26, 25-15)
Kenya v Congo RD 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-12)
Kenya v Egypt 3-0 (25–23, 25–22, 25–19)
Kenya v Cameroon 0-3 (22–25, 19–25, 27–29)
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