NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13 – Kenya Pipeline crushed out of the 2017 Women’s African Club Championship quarter finals after going down 3-2 (13-25, 28-26,25-19, 23-25,15-13) to arch rivals Kenya Prisons on Thursday in Monastir-Tunisia.
The loss leaves a jinxed Pipeline with yet another disappointing face running into 13 years of waiting for a first Africa’s most prestigious club competition title since 2005.
This historic match divided Kenyan volleyball audience right in the middle but it lived to its billing as one of the top games in this year’s competition, pitting two of Africa’s top sides.
Pipeline came into the opening set with venom and a lot of confidence having beaten their opponents to three league titles back at home. The venom temporarily incapacitated the five time African champions but they quickly applied an anti-dot in the subsequent sets of the five set thriller match which kept fans on the edge of their seats.
Pipeline took the lead right from the opening set, cruising to a massive seven-point lead at the second technical time. Captain Triza Atuka earned the Kenyan champions three straight points from dead blocks while Noel Murambi terrorized Prisons from the left to steady Pipeline’s ship to a safe anchor in the opening set.
The wardresses came back after the break to win two quick points which cut Pipeline’s lead but despite a timeout called by under pressure David Lung’aho, the pep talks didn’t help much.
Prisons tried staging a comeback but poor reception and a technical error propelled their opponents who bagged the opening set 25-13.
The script was not the same for Pipeline in the second set. Prisons came back knowing very well that any further slumber will give Pipeline a big psychological edge over them. The officers who boast of five continental trophies took the lead in the second set, going 4-1 up but the oil merchants caught up with them after winning three straight points to tie the game four -ups.
Pipeline then opened a point lead at the first technical time out thanks to Braxcides Agala’s attack outside the court.
Evelyne Makuto was introduced, taking the place of Yvonne Wavinya and the former Lugulu Girls alumni made instant impact and a significant contribution to cut Pipeline’s lead to just one point with Pipeline having taken a 14-9 lead in the second set.
From this point onwards, Prisons kept pace with Pipeline who led 16-15 at the second technical time out. Lung’aho charges however, turned the table when they wrapped the set 28-26 to level the scores one-all, throwing the game wide open.
But sometimes, at this level, experience rides above the form. Pipeline was indeed on their best form going into this championship but Lung’aho went for experience when selecting his squad.
That experience proved vital for the coach who is under pressure to return his side back to where they were three years ago which saw them dominate both the local and continental volleyball scenes until Pipeline stopped them in 2014.
Prisons won the third set 25-19 to open a point lead going into the fourth set. With a dented ego, Pipeline’s reception was wanting and they paid for it so dearly. Despite trailing Prisons in the entire set, which saw Prisons cruising to a 17-5 lead at one point, they suffered their heaviest set lose so far when they crushed in under 20.
But Japheth Munala made amends in the fourth set with a slim 25-23 win to send the match to a decisive fifth set.
Having trailed Prisons for the better part of the marathon fourth set, 2-6,14-18,17-20, Pipeline caught up with Lung’aho charges at 21 ups to level the scores with a 25-23 set scores.
But Pipeline players will have nobody to blame but themselves after surrendering a two points lead in the crucial sets to allow Jane Wacu kill the game with a weak strike at the empty back court. The most important attack of the game sent Prisons camp into wild celebration and a safe ticket to the semi finals.
Prisons will meet the winner between Tunisian sides, Sfexien and compatriots CFC to be played later in the day.
-By Elvince Joshua-