HAMAMATSU, Japan, October 30- Another brave performance from Kenya was not enough to victory over Puerto Rico at the FIVB Volleyball World Women’s Championships in Japan on Saturday.
It was Kenya’s second straight set loss in a row as they went down 25-20, 25-23, 25-19 in the Pool B match at the Hamamatsu Arena, jeopardisng their chances of advancing to the second round.
With both teams hungry for their first wins, the match was spirited early on with a lot of chatter in Swahili and Spanish on court.
Kenya had their best chances of the tournament to win a set, and led late in the second before luck turned against them. The awesome topspin serving of Aurea Cruz and the strength of Malpica and others powered Puerto Rico to their first win and a shot at advancing to the next round.
After close scores throughout the first set, the skillful serving and spiking of Cruz put Puerto Rico ahead by scores of 16-14 and 18-16.
Kenya scratched back to trail 23-20, but a wide spike by Asha Makuto eventually gave Puerto Rico the set 25-20.
Kenya mounted an enthusiastic comeback in the second set after trailing 10-4 early and 16-13.
Two net serves by Puerto Rico gave Kenya free points, and Kenya earned more with ferocious spiking and a service ace by Jackline Barasa, which had their Japanese coach Hidehiro Irisawa jumping for joy. Kenya took a lead of 21-19, and appeared headed for a chance for a historic first win at the world level.
But fate turned against them, as two blocks were deflected out to give Puerto Rico the set 25-23.
Heartbroken, Kenya slumped early in the third set and fell behind 8-5 and 16-9, unable to match Puerto Rico’s front-court brawn of Malpica and Sarai Alvarez.
Mercy Moim’s dipping service ace narrowed the deficit to 16-13 and sent Kenya celebrating in a circle dance, a crowd-pleasing performance which continued after their attack made it 17-15.
Hoping to stage a roaring comeback, Kenya got another break when Cruz missed a blistering serve wide.
Kenya’s Wachu made a stunning save off her head, and then a diving dig, but Kenya couldn’t transform it into a point. Though they lost 25-19, their pride and determination won the affection of many Japanese fans, while Puerto Rico showed they have the power to challenge for a spot in the next round.
Kenya will be heavy underdogs against Italy on Sunday.