Kenya impress despite 3-1 loss to Serbia


NAGANO, Japan, November 6 – European champions Serbia struggled against their African equivalents Kenya on the third day of the FIVB World Cup on Sunday, dropping the first set before coming back to win 3-1 (19-25, 25-22, 25-11, 25-11) at White Ring Nagano.

Brackcides Khadambi picked up the Most Impressive Player award after scoring four attack points and an impressive six blocks with Everlyne Makuto with 13 points followed by Moim Mercy with 11 and Lydia Maiyo on 10 top scoring for the much improved Kenya.

Tijana Malesevic top-scored for Serbia with 17 while Ana Bjelica and Milena Rasic contributed 15 and 14 as the European champs saved their brushes.

Kenya got off to a solid start and held Serbia to 4-4, but three Kenyan errors allowed Serbia to move into a 9-4 lead.

But a fantastic block by captain Khadambi on Tijana Malesevic inspired a three-point run by the Kenyan team and they stayed close through to the second technical timeout thanks to a nice hit by the skipper followed by an even better block by the same player on the big-hitting Ana Bjelica.

Diana Khisa then hit the net cord with a service and the ball trickled over to put the Kenyans within a point of Serbia at 14-13.

But a good block by Nadja Ninkovic on Everlyne Makuto saw Serbia three points ahead at the second TTO. Kenya responded with a block by Makuto on Bjelica and the inspired Kenyans went on a five-point rampage with two good kills by Makuto set up by brilliant defensive play from Jannet Wanja and libero Judith Tarus.

The Kenyans were playing good volleyball and with plenty of confidence. Two Moim kills were sandwiched between great blocks from Tarus and Khisa before a thunderbolt from the former handed Kenya a well-deserved 1-0 lead.

The two teams stayed close in the early stages of the second set, but Serbia edged into a two-point lead at the first TTO with Brizitka Molnar landing a couple of decent hits and Malesevic blocking Makuto.

At 14-11, Serbia still seemed to be in control, but three huge blocks by Khadambi – one on Bjelica, two on Molnar – turned the scores around and the African champions were two points ahead at the second TTO.

But a couple of Kenyan errors allowed Serbia to retake the lead at 19-18 and they managed to hold on to that. Bjelica brought up set-point with a kill and Molnar levelled the scores at 1-1 with a spike that was blocked wide.

Serbia turned the heat up at the start of the third set and Kenya found themselves 6-1 down. Good hits by Lydia Maiyo and another fine block from Khadambi settled the Kenyans down for a while, but after an error put Serbia 13-7 ahead, coach Paul Bitok called a timeout.

A thunderbolt by Malesevic and a block by Milena Rasic put Serbia 16-8 up at the second TTO and then the Kenyans spiking became somewhat wayward.

In the final stages, Bjelica started to find her spiking range again and the set ended when Kenya failed to deal with two of her serves.

Serbia were guilty of errors at the start of the fourth set, allowing Kenya to take an early lead, but a good blast and block from Molnar saw Serbia ahead at 5-4.

A massive hit from Khadambi levelled the scores at 8-8 and Serbia moved into a 14-8 lead on three successive blocks and a brilliant dig return from libero Suzana Cebic.

A nine-point run by Serbia ended with a rocket from Makuto, but the European champions were now in control. Bjelica brought up set-point with a spike and the match ended when Brackcides failed to deal with a serve by Malesevic.