TUCUMAN, Argentina, June 6 – After three winless matches in the first round of the FIVB World Grand Prix Group Two, Kenya’s Malkia Strikers depart for Poland on Monday evening for the second round, hoping to do better.
The African Queens rounded up their Argentine experience with a straight sets loss (25-21, 25-21, 25-20) to Dominican Republic in a match they showed great improvement but the Dominicans’ experience took them over Kenya.
In Poland, Kenya will be hoping to register a maiden set win when they face the hosts Poland, Argentina for the fourth time in less than a fortnight and Puerto Rico for a second time.
Lung’aho will be hoping the girls make a better imprint of themselves in the Poland leg and he will be seeking at least a win to avoid relegation back to Group Three.
“We improved from the last two matches so I’m happy we could play on this level. We will work to improve for the second stage, but today I’m happy.” Lung’aho said after the team’s third straight loss against Dominican Republic.
Captain Mercy Moim is hopeful the team can reduce its mistakes; “We played well but at the end of the sets we made too many mistakes. We have to keep working on the closures because we lost concentration.”
The win gave the Dominican Republic a second spot finish in the first leg with Bulgaria finishing top after a 3-1 victory over hosts Argentina who finished third, their only victory in the home tournament being against Kenya.
The Dominicans were stronger in their service which won them most of the points while Kenya improved in their blocks compared to the first two games of the tournament.
Moim kept her consistency as she finished Kenya’s top scorer for the second time in the tournament, picking up 10 points while Brackcedes Khadambi picked eight to take her total points tally in the Argentina tournament to 31.
Trizah Atuka, who did not put up performances as good as she did in the Olympic Qualifiers in Puerto Rico, managed to raise her game in the final match, winning seven points for Malkia Strikers and had the highest number of block attempts, 12.
Bethania De La Cruz De Peña picked up the highest points for the Dominican Republic, winning 12 and complimented Gina Mambru Casilla’s performance as they beat Kenya.
Dominican Republic controlled the set from the beginning thanks to Mambru’s attacks. De La Cruz’s efficiency also played out in the blocks as she consistently thwarted attempts from the red hot palms of Moim, Atuka and Khadambi.
Kenya stepped up with a better start in the second half and Atuka raised her game on the blocks. At one point, one of her blocks made everyone clap; she built a wall for the Kenyan team and they went ahead in scores for the first time in the game.
The development turned even with Moim and De La Cruz changing spikes, but it was finally the Dominican Republic who got the key to unlock the game with the contribution of Mambru and Martinez on the net. A fantastic final strike gave the Dominicans the second set, 25-21.
Kenya did well at the start of the third set, but could not maintain the level and Eve Castillo shone to put Dominican Republic ahead.
Just like it has been in the opening two games, Kenya’s flow in the final set lowered and they had more mistakes especially in reception and they ended up dropping the third set 25-20.