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Kenya volleyball queens reign supreme

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Malkia Strikers celebrate a point during the Africa Cup of Nations. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

Malkia Strikers celebrate a point during the Africa Cup of Nations. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

NAIROBI, June 20 – The national women’s volleyball team beat Algeria by straight sets to clinch a hat-trick of African Nations Championship titles in a fascinating final played at a packed Kasarani Gymnasium on Saturday.

The win saw the Malkia Strikers win their record ninth continental title and qualify for September’s World Cup in Japan.

Head coach, David Lung’aho who made a tactical change from the squad that overcame Cameroon by similar margin in the semi-final, starting with Esther Wangeci for Lydia Maiyo said the win comes as big boost as they depart for World Grand Prix on Tuesday.

“It’s a big win. Hard work from the players and the motivation from fans really motivated us. The last set was very hard, Algeria pushed us to the line but the tactical substitution of Janet Wanja made us recover the set that we were almost losing.

“We will carry this win to Grand Prix and hope to do well against the best in the world,” Lung’aho, the Kenya Prisons head coach said after the win.

His Algerian counterpart, Francois Slvagni said, “It’s very good for Olympics qualification but the most important thing is that we have young players who have a good future so this was a great experience to them. We have a lot of good players in Algeria but some couldn’t come because they were in school.”

Evelyn Makuto was named the Most Valuable Player, beating compatriot and crowd favourite Mercy Moim and Senegalese, Fatou Niana Diouck to the top accolade while Jace Wacu scooped the Best Setter.

Ruth Jepng’etich took the Best Attacker as Elizabeth Wanyama was crowned the best Libero.

The hosts who finished the tournament without dropping a set, had to count on the experienced, Wanja who came on for Wacu in the third set to inspire the African Queens come from six points down to win 25-20 and send the Gymnasium into a frenzy.

Lung’aho charges did not labour to win the first set, 25-17 where Moim, Makuto and Jepng’etich were dominant.

Kenya who were good on the blocks recovered to dominated especially Maiyo in the attacker to force the Algerian coach call for three time outs.

Algeria improved in the second set with Wangeci starting with a poor serve that hit the net but managed to recover for a hard fought 25-21 win.

The North Africans piled pressure to lead for the first time forcing Lung’aho to call for technical time out as they trailed by a point at 7-8.

Algerian blockers gave the Kenyan setters a hard time but skipper, Bracksides Agala levelled matters at 12-12 before Makuto’s powerful left spike lifted the team as they took a four-point lead in the first time out called by Algerian Coach.

The away side returned to reduce the deficit to two but once again Makuto stepped up with a cracker spike to inspire the team to their second win.

The third set was tense as the Algerians came out strongly before being overpowered at the end as the home girls closed the match and their third title on a row 25-20.

Wacu served a poor ball before Agala was substituted for Wanyama as Kenya struggled to catch up with their rivals forcing Lung’aho to call for the first time out trailing 4-8.

Algeria’s attacker, Abderrahim Mouni overpowered Kenya’s first-choice setter, forcing Lung’aho to withdraw the France-based player for the seasoned Wanja.

Wanja set Makuto to spike home before laying the ball to Maiyo as Kenya reduced the gap by two points for 14-16 to Algeria in the third time out.

Newcomer Triza Akuta came in for Jepng’etich as the hosts levelled before Moim took them over the line to spark the party.

Cameroon beat Senegal 3-2 to settle for bronze.

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