NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30- Kenya was dumped out of the African Under-20 Women’s Volleyball Championship after losing the second straight match 3-1 (25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 29-27) against Cameroon at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani Gymnasium on Thursday evening.
The loss means Kenya finished third from the group with Cameroon finishing top having won all their matches while Nigeria finished second to qualify for Saturday’s semi-finals.
Coming into the Thursday evening tie, Kenya needed to win the game by at least three sets to one to pip Nigeria who beat them by a similar score-line yesterday, but despite starting well, they crumbled under pressure and allowed Cameroon to take control.
“I don’t think I am entirely disappointed because these girls played really well. Considering we have not trained together for long or played any friendly matches as a team before this championship, I think we did well,” head coach Paul Gitau said.
He added; “Most of these girls joined the team on Saturday from the school games and there was no way we could get the team working well together when the competition started on Sunday. If we had prepared better, we would have done well.”
His sentiments were shared by his Cameroonian counterpart Anong Pierre.
“Kenya has good players, but you could see from how they played they have not trained together. I watched them in the first two games and I knew they are weak in defense and that is where we capitalized on,” the tactician said.
Cameroon will now play Rwanda in the semi finals on Saturday while second placed Nigeria will face tournament favorites Egypt.
The Junior Malkia Strikers had a brilliant start to the game, Emmaculate Misiko, Belinda Nanjala and crowd favorite Pamela Owino doing well on the blocks. Kenya took an 8-3 lead at the first technical time out.
The pressure continued and Gitau’s girls showed promise going 16-8 ahead at the second technical time out.
However, on resumption, Cameroon came back better and despite Kenya going 24-16 in what seemed to be an easy set, they dropped the levels forcing Gitau to call in a time out.
Things did not improve when the two sides went back to the court and Cameroon pushed the score to a four point gap at 24-20, necessitating another time out. ON coming back, Kenya just but managed to sneak in the set.
The Central Africans had built up some confidence with their performance at the end and in the second set, they played better, forcing a slim 8-6 trail to the Kenyans at the first technical time out.
The close contention continued upon resumption and Kenya still managed a slim 16-15 lead at the second technical time out. However, in the final third of the game, Cameroon came stronger and scored five unanswered points off simple errors by Kenya.
Cameroon’s left attacker Moussal Mimoset was Kenya’s chief destroyer, her strong bullets on either side of the net proving too hot for the Kenyan blockers to handle.
The Cameroonians led 23-19 forcing Gitau to signal for a time out, but it did little to reduce the damage as Cameroon went on to win 25-19.
Scores at 1-1, Kenya was under immense pressure as dropping another set practically mean the end of the competition for them.
And the pressure clearly showed as Cameroon struck in five quick points with no answer and went on to lead 8-4 at the first technical time out and 16-13 at the second, Kenya giving in a push.
The home girls, pushed on by a partisan crowd having gone to within three points had some confidence to take over the leadership and they did so going 19-18 up forcing a time out call by Cameroon.
The two sides ran each other neck to neck, but it was Cameroon who sneaked out with the win, Kenya’s Lydia Emokol serving into the net with the scores at 24-23 in favor of Cameroon.
With all done and hopes of a semi-final dashed, Kenya went in to fight for pride in the tie breaking set and they led 8-7 at the first technical time out. However, Cameroon regained their confidence to lead 16-14 at the next break but from then on, it was neck to neck between the two sides, Cameroon ultimately picking a 29-27 win.