MANASTIR, Tunisia, Apr 8 – Kenya Pipeline stormed into the quarter finals with a game to spare after white-washing Algerian opponents Sonatrach by straight sets (26-24,25-23, 25-16) on match day three of the ongoing women’s Africa Club Championship in Manastir-Tunisia on Saturday.
Captain Triza Atuka and her assistant Noel Murambi’s combination spelt doom for the Algerian side, who despite dominating the proceeding in the opening set, could not neutralize Pipeline’s fire-power.
Pipeline started the match on a rather slow rhythm, allowing Sonatrach to dictate the proceedings but they caught up with them on the last bend when they tied the scores 18 ups.
The two sides exchanged the lead in a see-saw game of 19, 22, 23 and 24 ups but Pipeline won two quick points to grab the set with two point margin. Atuka’s contribution in defense and attack were critical for Pipeline’s win in this set.
The second set saw Murambi, left handed utility player Violet Makuto and Monica Biama come into the fray with a different ball game. Their combined experience at this level could not be matched by the Algerians who were poor on reception.
Just like in the previous set, Pipeline allowed the Algerians to take the lead and things looked bad for the seven-time champions when they found themselves trailing 6-1 towards the first technical time-out.
But they worked on their back court coverage, tightening their grip even as they continued chasing the game. Janet Wanja’s experience played out when she started feeding her attackers with beautiful balls. Esther Wangeci and Makuto did not disappoint.
Sonatrach again took the lead at the first break with a cool five-point gap, but the pep-talk between Japheth Munala and her girls paid off after the first technical time out. The hardworking Pipeline who last won the title in 2005, won four successive points to cut Sonatrach’s lead to within a single point.
The Kenyan side then tied the game 12 ups but the opponents stuck their foot on the gas, forcing Pipeline to engage a higher gear to keep pace with the speeding Algerians.
However, things turned upside down for Sonatrach when Pipeline took the lead after catching up with them again at on the 44th service (22ups) up only to wind up the second set 25-23.
It was the third set that brought out Murambi’s ‘A’ game. The assistant captain hit the Algerians with well fed 10-five balls from the left to bring Sonatrach’s house into a state of confusing.
Pipeline took the lead for the first time in this match at the first technical time out (8-5) only to open a four-point lead at the second technical time out. At this point, they were in total control.
Sonatrach only managed three additional points thereafter and could do very little to salvage the situation. The Kenyan side wrapped up the match 25-16 to take their point tally to six and take control of group B.
They will play Bafia of Cameroon on April 11 in the last group stage match.
Kenya’s other representatives Kenya Prisons who lost their opening match to Ah Ahly will return to the court later in the evening in search of a first win.
-By Elvince Joshua-