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Malkia Strikers make Grand Prix history

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Esther Wangechi (left) rises for a shot against Algeria on Sunday. PHOTO/FIVB

Esther Wangechi (left) rises for a shot against Algeria on Sunday. PHOTO/FIVB

NAIROBI, July 6- History was made when Kenya Prison’s attacker, Mercy Moim scored a massive 26 points to inspire the national women’s volleyball team to a 3-2 victory over bitter foes and hosts Algeria to qualify for the second round of the ongoing FIVB World Grand.

It was the first time for the volley queens now christened Malkia Strikers to make the next stage of an international tournament on their second campaign in the competition.

Strikers rallied from a set down to clinch victory to top Pool Q’s second-leg on nine points and finish third in overall standings behind winners Colombia and second placed Peru in Group 3.

Kenya edged the five set thriller (20-25, 25-15, 23-25, 25-13, and 15-13) on Sunday with Moim who struck 19 against Australia standing tall for her side once again with four blocks and three aces in her personal tally.

The African queens eased past Mexico and Australia by straight sets to better their first-leg performance in Mexico where they only won a single match against the hosts also by 3-2.

David Lung’aho charges will be seeking to carry their good form to the Group finals that get underway in Canberra, Australia from July 10 to 12.

With Kenya having not beaten Algeria in their backyard, Lung’aho heaped praise on the record nine-time Africa champions, saying they had come of age.

“It’s amazing to see players extend their winning ways from Kenya to Algeria. Fresh from beating them (Algeria) in the Africa Nation Championship, the players proved again that they are a force to reckon in Africa by hitting them here.

“After winning only one match in Mexico, they made amends and recorded three wins. As a coach I’m very proud of them and generally, it also speaks volume of my career as coach and I’m proud to be part of the team that made history by winning against the archrivals who were celebrating their independence day,” the tactician who doubles up as Prisons head coach alluded.

He added, “Our objective was to qualify for the final round. I’m happy that the teams we will play in the final round are familiar opponents who we have played in the recent matches and therefore we will take one match at time and hope to post good results.”

Skipper Brackcides Khadambi weighed in with 16 with 10 from Ruth Jepng’etich included seven of Kenya’s 20 blocks.

Algeria twice went ahead but Kenya responded emphatically, taking the second set 25-15 and the fourth 25-13, which sent the match to a tiebreaker with Algeria keeping in touch to 9-9 and even 11-12 but Kenya pulled away when it counted for their third win in the pool.

“God healed me and gave strength to join my team as we played against Algeria yesterday. We won 3-2…I thank you my God. I’ve seen your mighty hand,” Wanja, the Kenya Pipeline setter, wrote on his Facebook page.

Kenya who played the second-leg without their veteran setter, Janet Wanja who fell ill, bettered their debut performance last year where they recorded three wins.

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