NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 7 – The national women’s volleyball team Malkia Strikers overcame stiff challenge from hosts Cameroon in a decisive epic encounter to inch closer to booking a slot in 2020 Olympic Games, edging out the West African side 3-2 on Tuesday night in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
The match that was dubbed ‘the decider’ and a mouthwatering clash did not disappoint as volleyball lovers witnessed the best two women teams in the continent battle it out in a five-set thriller.
Kenya started on a high, dominating the opening set against the hosts, winning 25-16 but Cameroon fought back to take the second set 25-23 that was tightly contested and see both sides share spoils at 1-1.
n the third set, it went Kenya’s way as they scooped a 25-21 victory but once again the hosts leveled matters after capturing the fourth set to send the match to the decider.
In the fifth and last set, Kenya came back strongly with the change of tactics from head coach Paul Bitok of resting key players like playmaker Sharon Chepchumba in the fourth set paying dividends to seal the win with a 15-11 victory.
Kenya are now a match away from qualifying to the Summer Games for the first time in 16 years with their final match set to be against minnows Nigeria on Thursday.
Bitok, who is yet to lose a match since being appointed the Malkia Strikers head coach, was ecstatic to maintain his perfect run over Cameroon, but once again called on his charges not to Waterdown Nigeria in their last match.
“I would like to congratulate my players for the fighting spirit. We came in knowing Cameroon is a strong team and whenever we meet its war. I knew we would be under pressure because Cameroon are at home, but we remained calm all through and I did not put my players under pressure,” joyful Bitok said after the match.
“We are not yet there, we just won four matches, we are remaining with the last one that is very important. Cameroon are down but not out, I need to win two sets against Nigeria and qualify for Olympics.”
The newly appointed KCB Women’s Volleyball head coach added that; “The only way we could beat Cameroon is by having a strong service so that they cannot operate from the middle and it was easy for us to have good blocks because side blocks was easier for us.”
Skipper Mercy Moim who is one of the senior players was over the moon to inch closer to playing in a first Olympics ever after competing without success in the last three qualifiers.
“I want to thank my team for the fighting spirit because Cameroon was strong. It was my fourth time to participate in Olympic qualifier and this is the best thing I can say it has happened to me. I thank my coach for bringing the winning spirit to our team.
“We changed our strategy by using young players who are not known to Cameroon to change the game.”