NAIROBI, April 1- Despite throwing away what looked as an easier route to the Olympics through the continental qualifiers, national women volleyball team Malkia Strikers are confident they can nail the single ticket when they take part in the World Qualifier slatted for Puerto Rico between May 20 and 23.
The African Queens, who reported camp on Friday, will fight off for with hosts Puerto Rico, Colombia and Algeria as they seek to return to the Summer Games for the first time since 2004.
Head Coach David Lung’aho who returns to the helm of the team after a previous change in guard that saw him appointed technical director believes Kenya stands a chance despite the difficulty.
“It is a big possibility for us to qualify because we are ranked at par with all the teams we are facing. We faced Colombia last year in the Grand Prix and though we lost 3-1, it is a team I believe we can beat. I have also watched Puerto Rico in some of their videos and they play like Peru, a side we beat last year in the Grand Prix Algeria isn’t much of a problem because we have been beating them,” Lung’aho stated.
“If we get our basics correct, then we have a chance. We only need to get focused and hopefully things go our way,” the experienced coach added.
Lung’aho, who accompanied the team to the African Qualifier in February, is disappointed the team could not use the easier route, admitting pressure is now on them ahead of the World Qualifiers.
“There is that pressure because apart from Wanja (Janet) all the girls here have never gone for the Olympics. We left the easier chance but we have been given a second and we will fight for it.”
Experienced players Wanja and Brackcedes Agala, who were axed from the team, have been reinstated ahead of the repechage and Grand Prix which will serves-off a week and a half after the Puerto Rico games.
The Kenya women Prisons tactician says the return of the duo will spur the morale of the team and will give a much needed backbone as they keep the Olympic dream alive.
Speaking to Capital Sport, Wanja could not hide her joy at getting back to the team.
“Of course I am happy but I will need to work hard to win my place in the team. The girls who replaced me have been giving their best and I need to double the effort to get a nod,” Wanja offered.
“I have played in the Olympics before and I know how prestigious it is. But I have to admit that the route we took is tougher because we face strong teams. However, we will try our best and if I get to the final 12, I will give my all to see that the team gets that ticket,” Veteran Wanja outlined.
From the Puerto Rico qualifiers, the girls will fly to Argentina for the first round of the FIVB Grand Prix before heading for the Poland leg.
“Group Two is very tough compared to Group One which we featured last year. We have the likes of Poland, Bulgaria and these are tough teams. At the moment we cannot say we will win because that’s too ambitious. The aim is to ensure we are not relegated and at best we try to finish in the top six,” Lung’aho asserted.
The team will be training twice a week at the Safaricom Kasarani Gymnasium until after the African Club championships next month where Kenya will be represented by Prisons and Pipeline with the two sides carrying a huge chunk of national team players.
Noel Murambi, Monica Biama,Trizah Atuka, Agrippina Kundu, Leonida Kssaya, Violet Makuto, Janet Wanja, Esther Wagechi, GaudenciaMakokha ,Veronika Tanui, Mercy Moim, Everlyn Makuto, Emmah Chemtai, Ann Lowem, Edith Wisah, Lydia Maiyo, Joy Luseneka Joan Chelagat, Brackcides Agala, Jane Wacu, Ruth Chelagat, Nancy Mulonza, Elizabeth Wanyama, Poline Wafula, Christin Siwa.