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Malkia Strikers begin Grand Prix campaign on wrong footing

Malkia Strikers captain Mercy Moim spiking during the match.
Malkia Strikers captain Mercy Moim spiking during the match.

TUCUMAN, Argentina, June 4- Despite putting up a hugely improved performance, Kenya’s women’s volleyball team Malkia Strikers lost by straight sets (25 – 22, 25 – 21, 25 – 13) to Argentina in the first game of the World Grand Prix early Saturday morning.

Kenya, who are making their debut in Group Two having been promoted from Group Three last year, was expected to have learnt all the weak points of the Argentines having played them twice in test matches before the tournament.

Speaking after the match, captain Mercy Moim was optimistic the team will fare better against Bulgaria who they face in their second match later on Saturday night.

“I think we played our best today, but luck wasn’t in our side. A gainst Bulgaria we’re going to do it better because this was our first match. Congratulations to Argentina for the win.”

Head coach David Lung’aho on his part said the team is picking great lessons from the matches and will definitely improve as the tournament goes on.

“I want to congratulate Argentina for winning today, they deserved it. I think we did our best in the first and second set and we did it better than in the previous matches we played against them. We have to accept that we lost and focus on the following matches. The experience we’re getting here is going to be very important for us in the future.” the coach stated.

Malkia Strikers celebrating after scoring.
Malkia Strikers celebrating after scoring.

Malkia Strikers had a decent start in the first set with Violet Makuto spiking hard, but Argentina reacted just in time with setter Yael Castiglione surprising the rival defense to turn the score around, 16-14.

From then on, the home team grew on its game with Leticia Boscacci playing a vital role for the South Americans who took advantage of Kenya’s mistakes in reception to pull away after an early trail.

Later on after Lung’aho had called out a timeout to stabilize the ship, Kenya improved with Brackcedes Khadambi who was Kenya’s best scorer in the match with 17 points raiding the Argentines with spikes, but they held on to win the set narrowly 25-22.

Khadambi and Moim took charge of the game in the second set as Kenya started in blistering pace and they managed to recover and pick a 16-13 lead.

The Olympics-bound South Americans increased the tempo of their attacks with captain Emilce Sosa leading the recovery and they went on to totally dominate and win the set 22-19, Kenya caught flat out with the drastic change in pace.

Argentina buried the game in the final set, learning from the mistake of letting the Kenyans start off faster in the previous two sets.

Middle blocker Sosa opened the last set with some impressive spikes that Argentina then completed with great team work.

The difference was growing and the Argentines were getting better at their blocks with Khadambi and core being prevented from causing further damage to see Sosa lead her side to a 25-13 wash-out for Malkia Strikers.

Khadambi was Kenya’s best player in the match both defensively and offensively adding on 14 blocks to the 17 points she won offensively for the team.

Bulgaria who play Kenya next were 3-2 winners (25 – 23, 20 – 25, 18 – 25, 25 – 17, 9 – 15) over Dominican Republic in another tough match while Canada were 3-1 losers (25 – 19, 28 – 30, 25 – 15, 25 – 20) over Poland in another Group Two match.