NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26- Malkia Strikers head coach Japheth Munala has named two debutants in his final squad of 14 for the Africa Zone Five World Championship Qualifiers which begin on Friday at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani Indoor Arena.
Libero Celestine Nyongesa and right attacker Emmaculate Chemutai have made it into the coach’s final team and Munala says he is confident in the squad he has named, being a blend of youthful and experienced players.
“It is a strong squad and the most important thing because we are building succession. This is the only platform that we can show how Kenya is improving in African volleyball. It is a good opportunity for them to grow,” Munala told Capital Sport on Wednesday afternoon after the side’s penultimate training session in Kasarani.
Setters Jane Wacu and Janet Wanja as well as middle blocker Brackcedes Agala and right attacker Mercy Moim are the experienced faces in the team with Under-23 captain Ann Lowem also making the cut.
Kenya Pipeline’s Triza Atuka and Noel Murambi, who have been a core of the team in the recent past, also make part of the team which has vowed to take Kenya back to the top of African Volleyball.
The three-day championship will involve hosts Kenya, neighbors Uganda and Rwanda as well as Egypt. The winner of the Zone Five qualifier will earn a ticket to the final round of qualification to the World Championships to be held in Cameroon later in the year.
“It will be a tough championship because Uganda and Rwanda have improved so much over the last few years so we cannot afford to underrate them. But I know that we are quite strong compared to them. However, we expect competition to come from Egypt,” the coach added.
Kenya are looking to qualify for the World Cup after missing the last showpiece in 2014. The last time the Malkia Strikers played in the World Cup was in Japan, 2010 where they bowed out in the group rounds without winning a set.
Munala admits the team has worked hard over the past three weeks of training especially as they look to bridge the gap that has come over the years as Kenya looks to reclaim its seat on the queen’s throne.
“The team is looking sharp and everyone is in high spirits for this competition. The morale is coming back to the team and I am confident we are in the shape to win the championship,” Munala added.
At the same time, skipper Moim believes the team has put behind their backs the disappointment of missing out on the Olympics and is fully focused on the World Championship qualification.
“We can’t dwell so much on that because the past is in the past. We have a new challenge and everyone’s focus is on that. We are hopeful of performing well and we want to urge fans to come out in large numbers and support us. Everyone is in high spirits,” the skipper outlined.
Technical Director David Lung’aho has urged the team to emulate the performance of their male counterparts who won the Zone Five Championship in Rwanda last week and qualified for the second round of qualification during the Africa Championship.
Lung’aho, who has coached the Malkia Strikers for a long period of time before his elevation to technical director, says they have kept faith in a blend of young and experienced players and is confident they can deliver.
“When I insisted on taking a young squad of men for the qualifiers in Rwanda, most people were against it but looking back now, everyone can see the fruits. That is the same thing we are doing with the ladies because we don’t want to have a gap in the next two or three years when the experienced players finish their careers,” Lung’aho pointed out.
Uganda and Rwanda are expected in the country on Thursday while Egypt are expected by tonight (Wednesday).
Setters: Jane Wacu, Janet Wanja
Liberos: Aggripina Kundu, Celestine Nyongesa
Middle Blockers: Brackcedes Agala, Edith Wisa, Ann Lowem, Triza Atuka
Left attackers: Mercy Moim, Noel Murambi, Everline Makuto, Leonida Kasaya