Egypt’s move to withdraw from the 2019 Zone Five African Games women’s volleyball qualifiers in Uganda installed Kenya as clear favourites to win the tournament and grab the sole qualification berth from this region to the continental championship.
Malkia Strikers went on to seize that opportunity — and in style — winning three matches at the four-nation event at the MTN Lugogo Indoor Arena in Kampala without dropping a set.
Kenya eased past Rwanda 3-0 (25-10, 25-17, 25-10) in their opening match, then followed that win with identical 3-0 (25-14, 25-8, 25-10) and 3-0 (25-20,25-17,25-10) victories over Ethiopia and hosts Uganda respectively to not only win the tournament but also qualify for their eighth successive African Games.
“Nice job from everybody here. It went well on most occasions but we have to improve on our reception heading into the continental games," said the team’s new coach Shaileen Ramdoo.
The Italian coach will have been excited by the team and individual performances from several veteran stars including setters Jane Wacu and Janet Wanja amid increasing hue and cry on whether they should pave way for fresh blood.
New entrants Lorine Chebet and Sharon Chepchumba also impressed but the real test will come when the likes of Senegal, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco come calling at the tournament proper.
“We are very happy because we achieved what we came to do and it was very easy, but the hard work starts now because teams at the next level are difficult to beat,” added attacker Noel Murambi.
Burundi and Tanzania also withdrew from this competition citing logistical and financial challenges respectively, but their presence might not have changed much considering Kenya’s dominance and prowess in the region and continent, with three African Games trophies and nine continental titles.
Egypt though have emerged as Kenya’s biggest challengers at club and national level and their presence would have made things trickier for Kenya.
The only downside for the team in Kampala was the lack of finances after the government — again — failed to remit the required funding for accommodation, participation fees and allowances on time.
Besides the African Games set for Rabat, in Morocco in August, Kenya’s attention shifts to the reclaiming the African Nations Cup title from Cameroon and the Olympic Games qualifiers.
The team jetted back into the country on Wednesday and will resume training Thursday at the Kasarani Indoor Arena.