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Kenya fail Italian job

HAMAMATSU, Japan, October 31– Kenya suffered their third straight defeat of the FIVB Women’s World Championships by losing to Italy on Sunday.

Kenya lost in straight sets (25-9, 25-7, 25-21) at the Hamamatsu Arena, the same venue where they lost their previous Pool B games to Brazil and Puerto Rico, also in straight sets.

Even with Italy resting super-setter Eleonora Lo Bianco after their marathon match on Saturday, their superior skills and longer volleyball tradition put them on a different level in the first two sets than the Kenyans, who did at times show spark with powerful spiking from their taller players.

Kenya’s great performance in the third set, which they often led until Italy stormed forward from a 15-all tie, showed the future potential of this enthusiastic and positive-minded team.

In the first set, Italy moved comfortably ahead 5-1 with Lucia Bosetti, Giulia Rondon and others seeing extra playing time. Kenya showed spark with spikes from the tall Lydia Maiyo and Mercy Moim to go 11-5 and 12-6.

But the Italian’s higher skill level prevailed, as Barcellini dipped a service ace to finish the set 25-9.

If Kenya was dreaming of staging an upset by starting the second set at 3-all, Italy quickly woke up and then scored 12 straight points. Gioli’s spike capped a 25-7 set that seemed to last only a few minutes.

Kenya again showed promise by hanging with Italy 5-5 early in the third set and then taking a 7-6 lead after some courageous digs.  Brackcides Khadambi’s spikes made it 8-7 and 9-8 for Kenya.

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With the crowd behind them chanting “Ken-ya, Ken-ya,” Moim made a brilliant left fore-arm save, and took a 11-9 lead.

With Francesca Piccinini back from injury, Italy tied it at 11. Kenya refused to be blown away, and held to a 15-all tie until Italy’s superior firepower took the set 25-21.  After the match, Kenya reveled in the adoration of the Hamamatsu fans adopting them as their own.

After a one-day break, Italy will play the Czech Republic on Tuesday, and Kenya will face the Netherlands.

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