NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 3 – Kenya needed a spirited fifth set performance to hit a stubborn Uganda 3-2 (22-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-27, 15-12) at the Kasarani Gymnasium on Monday evening and start their quest for qualification to September’s African Games in Morocco on a positive note.
The home side raced from a set down and recovered from a calamitous end to the fourth set to beat the stubborn Ugandans in a five-set thriller that lasted close to two and a half hours.
Kenya had recovered from losing the first set 25-22 to win the next two sets in identical scores of 25-21 and were on the verge of preventing the game from going to the full length in the fourth set but bottled it to allow Uganda recover and win the set to force the game into a tie breaker.
Leading 24-22, Kenya needed to get their act right with the final ball as just a point would have prevented the trouble of going into a fifth set. However, a mistake in communication in attack when Brian Melly sprayed the ball up for the final sting cost Kenya the set.
Uganda scored a quick two to tie the game and kept the momentum with Kenya out of sorts to win 27-25.
Having won the second and third sets, Kenya burst into the fourth with some good confidence to race from trailing 6-2 to leading 8-7 at the first Technical Time Out (TTO). They kept the momentum swinging in their favor to lead 16-13 at the second TTO, but crunch time failed them big time.
Uganda had made the most out of Kenya’s reception weakness in the opening set, the duo of Kathbart Malinga and Daudi Okello doing the damage with their arrowed spikes.
The two sides exchanged leads in the first and second TTO’s, Kenya being off 8-6 while Uganda turned it over to 16-15 at the second through Malinga’s venomous hit that greased through Melly’s arms.
But Kenya amended their wrongs in the consequent two sets, the impressive Nicholas Matui on his return to the national team set up and the experienced Michael Chemos leading the charges from the front.
A combined middle blocking pair of Jairus Kipkosgei and Rodgers Kipkurui took Kenya 16-14 up at the second TTO and the boys kept the momentum in the final swing of the set, Bob Ongom’s serve to the net giving Kenya’s men the win.
It was a replicate performance in the third set with Kenya leading 16-10 at the second TTO. Uganda tried to squeeze in the gap to 22-20, but Kenya regained its footing to win 25-21.
After the mess in the fourth set, Kenya pushed on by a sizeable crowd at the gymnasium were in no mood for mistakes and they controlled the set from the start.