NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 13- Kenya’s women volleyball team Malkia Strikers have qualified for next year’s FIVB World Championship in Japan after beating Egypt by straight sets in a nerve wrecking African Championship semi-final match at the Palais de Sports Arena in Yaounde, Cameroon on Friday.
By virtue of qualifying to Sunday’s final, Malkia have booked one of the two available slots for Africa in the Japan showpiece, making a return to the global event after missing out in 2014.
Edith Wisa and setter Jane Wacu produced another stellar performance for the Japheth Munala’s team as they sustained a charged Egypt side in the opening two sets before putting up a show to win the third set more comfortably.
Malkia were made to sweat, winning 25-23, 25-22 and 25-19. Wisa contributed 14 points for Kenya while outside hitter and skipper Mercy Moim recorded 13.
The match was a repeat of the Africa Zone Five Championships held in Kenya in August when the home side beat the Egyptians by straight sets as well and they were all ready to lay revenge for that loss at Kasarani.
Malkia weren’t made to play as comfortable as they did in their preliminary matches by the hard-hitting North Africans who took the match head on and led 8-6 at the first technical time out.
But the Kenyan queens were not letting things go easily and they fought back tooth and nail and managed to sneak away with the first set 25-23, benefiting with a set winning point from Egypt’s determined spike whistling off court.
The North Africans, Kenya’s biggest volleyball rivals on the continent were not giving up easy and they kept the surge in the second set, heading to the first technical time out leading 8-5.
They were making use of their left channel in their forays and in more occasions than one, the attacks found the Kenyan blockers off their wheels.
However, they could not sustain the tempo as Kenya slowly crawled back, Violet Makuto’s stinging spike sending Kenya 16-13 ahead at the second technical time out.
Malkia kept their pressure, stretching to a four-point lead at 20-16 with Wisa and Wacu exciting the fans with some cheeky dummy dinks to win easy points for Kenya.
But, the Egyptians threatened a comeback, reducing the gap to 23-20 forcing Munala to call in a time-out to stem the tide. Egypt though continued to press and came within a point at 23-22. However, two quick blocks by Wisa were enough to ease the pressure and give Malkia a 25-22 win.
The North Africans seemed to have gassed out in the third set as Kenya steam-rolled to a 5-0 lead. The game was temporarily halted as one of the Egyptian players picked up a serious sprain with an ankle twist.
After resumption, Munala’s girls were already in party-mode as they went into the first technical time-out at 8-4 up. A serve to the net by Egypt saw Kenya go into the second technical time 16-10 up and they ensured the business was sealed with a last lap effort.