Kenya on Saturday lost 3-2 sets (24-26, 21-25, 25-17, 26-24, 12-15) to neighbours Uganda in the opening match of CAVB Zone V World Championship volleyball qualifiers at Amahoro Indoor Arena in Kigali.
The shocking loss dented Kenya’s chances of qualifying for both the Africa Cup of Nations tournament planned for Egypt in October, and the World Championship set to be co-hosted by Italy and Bulgaria next year. Only the top two of the four participating nations in this competition are guaranteed qualification.
Following the result, hosts Rwanda, managed by former Kenya international Paul Bitok, and Uganda are favourites to snatch the two qualification slots.
Kenya meanwhile, have to beat nemesis Rwanda and South Sudan in her remaining assignments to stand a chance.
“We had a very poor start and that cost us the game. The boys only played to our potential in set three and four. But we need to have hope because there are two matches remaining,” Kenya’s team manager, Ishmail Chege, explained after the game.
“We need to have hope because we still have two matches to go.”
On evidence of the proceedings against Uganda, Kenya is up for a rough ride in the championship. Despite never having beaten Kenya in a competitive assignment in the past decade, Uganda raced into a two-set lead against a disjointed Kenya, leaving coach Moses Epoloto scratching his head in a bid to arrest the slump.
A couple of substitutions later involving captain Jairius Bett and Kelvin Maiyo for Bonventure Wekesa and Linus Sang seemed to have done the trick as Kenya clawed the set scores back to 2-2. But the damage had already been done as Uganda took the fifth set.
Uganda led from start to finish in the deciding set to pick up two crucial points, leaving Kenya with a single point normally awarded to a team which wins two sets in a game of volleyball.
Kenya will return to the court to face South Sudan in the next assignment at 5pm Sunday evening.