Kenya Commercial Bank women's volleyball team head coach Japheth Munala is confident of winning his maiden Africa Clubs Championship title this year after doing good business in the current transfer window.
The bankers have had a busy off-season that has seen them revamp their squad with six new signings notably national women’s volleyball team captain Mercy Moim, middle blocker Edith Wisa and star opposite Sharon Chepchumba.
Other signings are Ugandan middle blocker Sharon Amito, who crossed over from Ndejje University, as well as youngsters Sharon Sandui and Emmaculate Nekesa from Kwanthanze Secondary School.
The six new signings are expected to blend in with other regulars in the team like Noel Murambi, Violet Makuto, Leonida Kasaya, Jemimah Siang’u and Rwandese setter Ernestine Akimanizanye.
“We are building a good team that can compete effectively at the high level, that’s why we went for quality players. We want to improve our performance in the league and, most importantly, at continental level where we are focused on winning the Africa Clubs Championship,” Munala told Nation Sport on Tuesday.
The continental tourney is a familiar territory for Munala whose best performance was guiding Kenya Pipeline to the final in 2015 where they lost 3-1 to Al Ahly in Cairo. Last year, in his first outing with KCB at the Clubs Championship, the bankers finished ninth and Munala is keen to make amends and bring the trophy to Kencom House for the first time since 2006.
To put into perspective, Moim – currently one of the most experienced players at the national team - was at Cheptil Girls' High School the last time KCB conquered Africa.
“One lesson I picked up with the young Pipeline team in 2015 is that you need experience at that level. We have a good team but that does not guarantee success. We have to work on team cohesiveness and ensure it becomes a unit since the players have come from different clubs,” warned Munala.
“It’s been a long time since KCB won the Clubs Championship but you can see the level of commitment from the management. Everybody expects us to win and we believe we can do the job,” he added.
KCB Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Judith Sidi pledged support for the team, saying the bank is determined to build a professional outfit that will reclaim lost glory both locally and in Africa.
“We have been in consultation with the technical team led by Paul Bitok and we are convinced that the new signings will take KCB to the next level. It’s a long-term project that we believe will change the lives of these players and shape the future of Kenyan volleyball,” said Sidi, who is KCB’s volleyball team patron.
PRISONS TURN TO YOUTH
But even as KCB plot to conquer Africa, champions Kenya Prisons are determined to reclaim the continental gong they last won in 2013 in Madagascar.
The wardresses have been hit by the departures of Moim and Wisa but head coach Josp Barasa is confident he can weather that storm. He has tipped budding outside hitter Pamela Masaisai, Lorine Chebet and Shyrine Jepkemboi to fill the void left by the “influential duo”.
“There is no way you can stand in the way of players when they find greener pastures. We wish them well because they have also played a part in building Kenya Prisons. Their departure has opened up opportunities to players like Pamela, Shyrine and Lorine who we believe can step up with more playing time,” said Barasa.
This year’s tourney will be Barasa’s second outing at the Clubs Championship as head coach of Kenya Prisons whose campaign was unceremoniously halted last year following a logistics mishap from their sponsors.
“Every team is eyeing the Clubs Championship and we are not any different. The players are confident and we believe that, with good training and preparations. we can bring the trophy back home. Six years is such a long time,” he added.
PIPELINE UNVEIL GITAU
Meanwhile, Kenya Pipeline unveiled Paul Gitau as their new head coach on Tuesday. Gitau, who has previously coached Kenya Commercial Bank and the defunct Telkom, replaces Margaret Indakhala whose contract ended at the end of last year.
He has been handed a three-year contract and will have a free hand in choosing other members of his technical bench. Gitau faces an uphill task of reclaiming lost glory at the club having missed out on the league title for two consecutive seasons. Kenya Pipeline finished third in the Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) national league last year.
"This team will be at the top again, I have done it before and will do it again. I cannot say that we want to finish second or third, we want to win everywhere, including outside our borders," vowed Gitau who revealed that he will choose a female coach as his assistant.
The 53-year-old, who won three continental titles with Telkom, is best remembered for guiding a second string Malkia Strikers team to the African Games title in 2015 in Congo Brazzaville.
The local transfer window will be closed on February 7 with the top three clubs set to test their new guns in the opening leg of the national league and tournament slated for February 14-16 in Nyeri.