NAIROBI, July 12- The national women’s volleyball class of 2015 will go into Kenyan history books as the first team to lift an FIVB World Grand Prix gold medal after stunning Peru 3-1 in Group 3’s final in Canberra, Australia on Sunday.
The high flying record nine-time African champions rallied from a set down to edge out favourites Peru (21-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23) in a tense four set thriller to earn promotion to Group 2 next year, joining the big girls; Croatia, Canada, Argentina, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Puerto Rico, Czech Republic and Poland.
Participating in the global annual showpiece for the second time, Malkia Strikers produced a brave display to top Group 3 ahead of silver medallist, Peru, high ranked Colombia who settled for bronze, hosts Australia, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Cuba and Mexico.
To reach the finals, Kenya who only lost twice in eight matches, once again came a set down to eliminate Australia 3-1 in the semis.
Against Peru, it was a sweet revenge for head coach, David Lung’aho charges after going down by straight sets when the two sides met in the opening first-leg match in Mexico.
With September’s World Cup in Japan and Congo Brazzaville’s Africa Games to come, Lung’aho said the win signalled Kenya is ready to battle with top teams in the world.
“After beating us in the first leg, we went and studied their previous matches and we knew exactly what to do and where. As much as our dependable player Evelyne Makuto didn’t play since she is recovering from abdomen discomfort, I’m happy youngster Noel Murambi proved her worth.
“I’m glad of the win and we can only hope for the best in future. Our focus now shifts to the forthcoming two crucial events-World Cup and All Africa games,” long serving head coach, David Lung’aho asserted after the victory.
Captain, Bracksides Agala said, “Hopefully, our win here in Australia proves critics wrong that the only active sport in Kenya is athletics. We hold the fans that came out in large numbers to support us in high esteem and we thank them,” Agala, who plies his professional trade in France lamented.
Playing in front of Kenyans living in Australia led by Ambassador Isaiah Kabira, Malkia Strikers did not disappoint parading experienced hands in Mercy Moim, Janet Wanja, Agala, Ruth Jepng’etich, Lydia Maiyo and Noel Murambi in the entire match.
Once again promising attacker, Moim was the highest point scorer for Kenya after amassing 22 ahead of Chepng’etich who scooped 17.
In the opening set, Kenya earned the first point before slipping to allow Peru take the lead but they came back to close the gap at 18-18.
Peru went ahead with a huge spike coming off Kenya hands for a 20-19 lead before pressuring Lung’aho charges to block Kenyan attacks for a 25-21hard fought win.
The second set belonged to Kenya who improved on their blocks with Moim slamming home the spikes to open a 6-4 lead.
The African Queens piled pressure after the first technical time out to extend the lead before defending well to earn a 15-9 lead.
Kenya took the Second set with a powerful spike down the middle to close it 25-17.
Malkia pushed Peru to the wall in the closely contested third with the latter taking the lead after Kenya serve took a big chunk of the net and drop into open court for 5-3.
Lung’aho charges managed to come back after popping the ball over the net to narrowly lead 9-8 in the first time out.
They returned with brilliant blocks to earn them 23-20 advantage over Peru who saved back to back set points but Kenya held on to spike home two quick sets to take the lead 2-1.
With just a set away to making their historic moment, Kenya’s Maiyo led the block count with three but Peru pilled on the pressure to see them lead 4-1 in the fourth set.
Kenya showed great aerial dominance to reduce the gap before painting the corners with their spikes to bring it back together at 14-14.
Malkia charged to take a two point lead (18-16) with some desperate defending as Moim spiked straight down the centre of the court to win the fourth set 25-23 and be crowned Group 3 champions.