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Malkia strikers shift gears to Grand Prix after Olympic dream shatters

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Malkia strikers players celebrate after winning a point against Puerto Rico-PHOTO/Dennis Machio- KVF

Malkia strikers players celebrate after winning a point against Puerto Rico-PHOTO/Dennis Machio- KVF

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, May 23- After their dream of clinching an Olympic ticket through the world qualifiers went up in flames following a straight sets loss to hosts Puerto Rico, national women volleyball team Malkia Strikers will shift their attention to the World Grand Prix which serves off on June 4 in Tucuman, Argentina.

The team will depart San Juan on Monday night for Argentina via Miami USA.

They leave San Juan’s Luiz Munoz Marin International airport at 9pm Kenyan time for a two hour 51 minute flight to Miami where they will catch an eight hour 15 minute connecting plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

They will then have a 12-hour lay-over before connecting to Tucuman in the evening.

Kenya will face hosts Argentina, Bulgaria and Dominican Republic on June 4 and 5 before travelling to Poland where they play Puerto Rico for a second time, hosts Poland and Argentina, for the second time as well.

Assistant coach Japheth Munala passes instructions to the players during a time out- PHOTO/ Dennis Machio-KVF

Assistant coach Japheth Munala passes instructions to the players during a time out- PHOTO/ Dennis Machio-KVF

“We have picked a lot of lessons from the games in Puerto Rico. Of course there is a disappointment that we could not get the Olympic ticket but we leave heads high and now our focus is to do well in the Grand Prix,” Lung’aho told Capital Sport from San Juan.

The girls put up a fight against Puerto Rico in a game played in the wee hours of Monday morning despite going down 3-0.

After a poor show in the first set where they lost 25-8, Lung’aho’s girls put up a splendid second set show, pushing the hosts infront of a sold out crowd of 10,000 but lost the set 25-23.  The push couldn’t last long in the final set as Malkia lost 25-15.

“We played very well compared to the first two days posting fewer errors and playing with a good fighting spirit. The team showed very aggressive blocking and good service delivery. It was an amazing display by the girls. It was a tough match but the spirit displayed by our players gives us hope as we progress to the World grand prix where we expect good fireworks.” Lung’aho noted.

Kenya Pipeline captain Noel Murambi was Kenya’s best performer having won 12 points while her club mate Evelyn Makuto managed to pick nine.

Kenya's Esther Wangeci (left) and Triza Atuka (right) go for a block against a Puerto Rico attacker. Atuka won ten blocks- PHOTO/Dennis Machio-KVF

Kenya’s Esther Wangeci (left) and Triza Atuka (right) go for a block against a Puerto Rico attacker. Atuka won ten blocks- PHOTO/Dennis Machio-KVF

Defensively, the pair of Brackcedes Khadambi and Triza Atuka was Kenya’s best with 12 and 10 blocks consecutively. Monica Biama was the only unused player in the match.

Puerto Rico who won all the matches have now qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August and this will be their maiden show in the games.

Colombia finished second after seeing off Algeria on straight sets.

At the Grand Prix, Kenya will hope to be within the top six as they step up to a tougher group compared to Group Three which they won last year.

“It is a very tough group with more experienced teams and hopefully we do well. Our target is to be in the top six because we can’t be very ambitious as at now. We have to be realistic,” Lung’aho said before the girls departed for San Juan last week.

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