Queens optimistic despite Kasarani lock-out

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NAIROBI, Kenya, January 30- Despite shambolic preparations the national women’s volleyball team departed for Algiers on Monday evening optimistic they would capture the sole London Olympics up for grabs at the Blida, Algeria Africa Zone qualifiers.

The squad left in two batches for the competition that kicks off on Wednesday where they will face among others, the hosts who locked them out of the Beijing Olympics four years ago at the same competition.

“The team is fine, they are in high spirits and the morale is high. We shall try the best to get the Olympics ticket since we have polished on the parts that we feel we did poorly. There is nothing in our minds to worry about,” captain, Bracksides Agala said at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport shortly before their departure.

On the disruptions that have marred their training programme that has seen them locked out of Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, the only stadium in the country with indoor playing surface, Agala who was part of the team that lost out on Beijing remained upbeat their chances would not be adversely affected.

“Volleyball is in the body and when you miss a day or two of training, you recover when you return to the court. These are the problems that we encounter in this country that we have to overcome and our hope is that we shall succeed.”

The skipper who led the team to its misfiring FIVB World Cup in Japan last November where Kenya lost all her matches said reports the hosts had prepared for the qualifiers in Turkey while they grappled with lack of training venues would not faze the side.

“At the end of the day, it depends on how the team is prepared mentally, not how far it has gone to train but in future, we request for this team to be given exposure outside for it to compete at the highest level,” she pressed.

Head coach Gideon Chenje, who was appointed to the helm following the World Cup campaign from his previous position in charge of the men’s side assured his squad was up to the task.

“My team is ready; we have trained well and set for the competition. As far as the team is concerned, we have prepared them mentally and they are going for this one chance. We did not have all the resources we needed but we worked hard to rectify our weakness.

“I have the two best setters in the continent, Janet Wanja and Jane Wacu as well as veteran Edna Rotich who we shall rely on a lot especially in the blocks that have been our weakness,” Chenje said.

Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) chair, Waithaka Kioni, added, “We shall not underrate any team at this event and I hope the team will win despite the interruptions. From the looks of things the girls are psyched for the assignment.”

“The Algerians are a good team with two professional players who play in France and they have trained in Turkey. They are fired up but our girls are capable of matching them.”

The KVF chief slammed authorities for locking them out of the Moi Complex saying, “I’m lost for words, it’s going to a big challenge and the least we expected from the Government is the bare minimum and in this case, is to allow the team to Kasarani which is a public utility.

“The Government should move on and avoid giving lip service and there is nowhere in the world where a national team does not have free access to public utilities.”

He offered his support to the new technical bench noting that they were capable of motivating the players to achieve their goals.

“Our long term plan is to market this team to the corporate world to address the resources challenge we are facing.”

Multiple Africa champions Kenya made the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympics where they finished 11th on both occasions and they take a squad brimming with youth and experience after failing to capture a London ticket in Japan.

SQUAD

Jane Wacu, Ruth Chepngetich, Jannet Wanja, Diana Khisa, Esther Wangeci, Millicent Odwako, Lydia Maiyo, Mercy Moim, Evelyn Makuto, Edna Rotich, Bracksides Agala and Roselyn Adhiambo.

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