NAIROBI, April 15 – For the last 11 years, record African women volleyball champions Kenya Pipeline have tried to reclaim the title but all in vain despite reaching five finals.
The last time they picked their last crown in 2005, the youngest player in the current team, Vyonne Sinaida was only beginning her primary school education while the oldest, Mildred Odwako was just beginning her volleyball career.
It is that hunger that drives the team as they prepare to depart for Tunisia Tuesday for the 26th edition of the Africa Club Championships which serves off April 22 in the North African country’s capital.
Head coach Japheth Munala is confident he has prepared a team worthy to challenge the top teams in the continent and battle for the top most crown.
“Looking back, this is the best Pipeline team to ever go into the African Club Championship and I am very hopeful that we have what it takes to come home with the trophy. The challenge we expect in Tunisia is very big but I am confident we can match it and bring the title back home,” Munala told Capital Sport.
Last year, they had a chance to reclaim the trophy but they fell at the last hurdle, losing by straight sets to hosts Al Ahly of Egypt.
Assistant captain Triza Atuka was part of the team that fell in Cairo but she believes they have learnt from their mistakes and are ready to make it one better and go for the trophy.
“It has taken us a year to get over what happened in Cairo. It was very painful because we were very close but we have put that behind our backs and we are focused on this year’s assignment.
“We want to bring the title back home because it has been two years since a Kenyan team won. We believe with the way we have prepared well we will be champions, but it’s not easy,” Atuka underscored.
Her sentiments were echoed by captain Noel Murambi who said; “We know the other teams have been working hard as well and we expect to find it tough. But we have that push and urge to do well because all of us have never won the club title. We will go there to get the title.”
Munala has named two untested youngsters in his side including the 19-year old centre Sinaida as well as Beldine Akinyi both of who were picked up by Pipeline after finishing High School last year.
Right attacker Esther Wangeci who returned to the club after a one-season pro stint in France with Chamalieres, will not be part of the team as her clearance did not go through in time with FIVB and CAVB.
However, Munala is confident that her replacement Gaudencia Makokha has what it takes to fill the void and is confident in her abilities.
The team was hosted to a luncheon by their title sponsor the Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC) on Friday where they were challenged to bring the title back home.
“We want you girls to go out there and represent us well and bring that trophy home. We have supported you all through and we trust you will not let us down,” the chairman of the KPC board of directors John Ngumi said as he addressed the team.
Ngumi has also promised to improve the welfare of the team including putting up a modern training facility for them.
“I came to watch the team train and the facility was not befitting world beaters. I told the directors to pick up the issue with my office and I trust they are doing that so that we give you a place to train that befits your status,” Ngumi added.
Meanwhile, the same woes that have befallen Pipeline over Wangeci’s ineligibility has also affected Kenya’s other representatives Kenya Prisons.
The five-time African champions are worst hit as they will be unable to use three of their key players; left-attacker Mercy Moim, middle blocker Brackcedes Agala and setter Jane Wacu.
“We could not get their clearance in time and so they will not be part of the team travelling to Tunisia. But I am still confident in the abilities of the other girls and I trust they will give an equally good performance,” Prisons head coach David Lung’aho declared.
Lung’aho is expected to name his final team after their penultimate training session on Saturday morning.
Prisons was the last Kenyan team to win the title in 2013, but since the departure of Wacu, Agala and Moim, they have failed to sparkle.
Setters: Janet Wanja, Rose Magoi
Centre: Vyonne Sinaida, Trizah Atuka, Valentine Chepkoech
Left attackers: Monica Biama, Leonida Kasaya, Noel Murambi, Naomi Too
Right attackers: Gaudencia Makokha, Beldine Akinyi, Violet Makuto
Liberos: Agrippina Kundu, Mildred Odwako