Malkia Strikers on Saturday failed to defend their African title after going down 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 29-27) to Cameroon as the curtains came down on the women’s Volleyball Africa Nations Championship at the Palais des Sports Indoor Arena in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
It was Kenya’s first defeat in the competition which had brought together nine countries, and it gifted Cameroon her first ever gold medal in the biennial competition which is now in its 17th edition.
Kenya coach Japheth Munala, who was chasing his first continental crown with the side, stuck to his best six which included setter Jane Wacu, Violet Makuto, Mercy Moim, Brackcides Agala, Edith Wisa and libero Agrippina Kundu.
Kenya began strongly and were leading 5-3 in the first set before Cameroon settled down and scored some quick points to conjure an 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout.
The hosts never looked back again and despite getting pegged down to a 22-22 stalemate towards the end of the first set, they held their own and ended up taking the set 25-22.
The second set was even more excruciating for the Kenyan ladies who appeared to suffer lack of mental fortitude, and they trailed the hosts throughout the set before winding up 25-19 losers heading into the final round.
In an earlier game played at the same venue, Egypt claimed the bronze medal following straight sets victory over Senegal (25-20, 25-19, 25-23) in the third place playoffs.
Despite the loss, the national women’s volleyball team will however represent the continent in the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship that will be held in September next year in Japan.
Munala says that Kenya is ready and capable of competing against world beaters following the team’s qualification to next year’s FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship.
“Getting here was not been very easy. The girls have earned it and looking at the squad, I believe that they are ready to make that next step. It has been seven years since we were at the world championship and since then a lot has changed,” said Munala.
“We have had young players join the team, we have competed in the Grand Prix and even gotten promoted to second position, and we have won several African titles.”
“The experience we have gotten throughout that journey as a team is invaluable. The girls have played against some of the world’s best teams like Peru and Argentina, and I can see that they are quite confident about meeting such strong teams.”