NAIROBI, Kenya May 5- The National women volleyball team Malkia Strikers started non-residential training Thursday ahead of the World Olympic Qualifiers slated to begin May 22 in Puerto Rico as well as the FIVB World Grand Prix in Argentina and Poland from June 3.
Kenya missed an Olympic ticket during the Africa Qualifiers in February when they lost to Egypt in the semi-final and will now have to fight off for a single slot in a four nation qualifier in San Juan Puerto Rico.
Kenya plays against the hosts, Colombia and perennial African rivals Algeria.
Head coach David Lung’aho has called in 14 players to camp, a bulk of them being from Kenya Pipeline and Kenya Prisons who last week participated in the African Women Volleyball Club Championship.
The coach has been boosted with the presence of Europe based players Jane Wacu, Brackcedes Agala, Esther Wangeci and Mercy Moim.
The only absentees from day one were setter Janet Wanja who was sick and middle blocker Noel Murambi.
“We have a huge task ahead and the players know this as well. But I am pleased with the morale and motivation in camp and everyone is working hard in training. Most of the players have been on intense competition so I know we are okay in terms of fitness,” Lung’aho told Capital Sport.
He added; “We are working on some grey areas which we hope to strengthen including reception and ball control. I trust if we can these two areas, we will be very strong.”
This year has not been a good one for Kenyan women volleyball after a stellar 2015 season when they swept the tables during the last Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA).
After the disappointing outing in the Olympic qualifiers that was preceded by dropping of two key players Janet Wanja and Brackcedes Agala as well as redeployment of head coach David Lung’aho, Kenyan clubs never fared better either at the African Championship which ended last week in Tunis.
For the first time since 2001, a Kenyan club failed to make it to the final with seven-time champions Kenya Pipeline finishing third after losing to Tunisia’s Carthage in the semi-final while five-time champions Kenya Prisons finished seventh after failing to make it past the quarter finals.
Lung’aho however believes there is no cause to worry and adds the poor start to the year will not deter Kenya’s aim to qualify for the Olympics as well as do well in the Grand Prix.
“I can’t say I am disappointed with how our girls performed in Tunis. In sports, sometimes it happens and there is a time your form dips. But I would not want to focus on what has happened in the past. The focus now is on the two tournaments and we are putting all our effort to it,” Lung’aho said.
After the Olympic Qualifiers, Kenya will travel to Tucuman, Argentina for their debut in the Grand Prix Group Two.
Kenya gained promotion from Group Three last year and will be looking to make an impact in a tough group that has experienced European sides.
On June 3, Kenya will play hosts Argentina before facing Bulgaria a day later and finishing off the tour with a match against the Dominican Republic.
They will then fly to Włocławek, Poland from June 10 where they will face Puerto Rico for the second time, hosts Poland and a second meeting as well with Argentina.
Lung’aho’s major target is to ensure they don’t drop back to Group Three pegging his ambition with a minimum top six target form the eight team pool.