IN CAIRO, EGYPT
"This is done and dusted. We are taking a single stride at a time."
This was the total summation of FIVB seconded Malkia Strikers tactician Shaileen Ramdoo to their 3-0 drubbing of Botswana (25-16, 25-18, 25-11) in their second Group 'B' match in the Africa Nations Championships at the October 6 Hall in Giza, Egypt on Wednesday.
Kenya have now a date with the defending champion Cameroon on Thursday at 2000hrs (2100hrs in Kenya); a show that will determine the pool leaders as both teams have advanced to the semi-fiinals.
With Egypt tightly atop Group A, runners up in group B are likely to battle it out with the host nation; an experience neither Cameroon nor Kenya wants to taste this early.
The Kenya versus Cameroon match has already been dubbed “the final before the final” with the two sides having contested for the title in the 2017 edition where the West Africans won 3-1.
Kenya’s assistant coach Japheth Munala says whoever scraps through as the group leaders might ultimately carry the day in the championship. He however believes that the host nation Egypt will be a tough side to overcome.
"Cairo has never been a good hunting ground for most clubs and national teams and all things constant, Egypt stands neck and head above shoulders in this competition. They however will have to sweat for it," Munala added.
The nine-time African champions were never really made to work by the southern Africans, but will have to improve tremendously on their reception and attack in their last group stage match against Cameroon - if they are to top the pool.
Cameroon, who hammered Botswana 3-0 (25-12, 25-17, 25-10) in their opening match on Tuesday, showed their might again with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-5, 26-24) thrashing of Algeria in their second match Wednesday night. The win all but confirmed Kenya and Cameroon are through to the semis of the biennial tourney.
Ramdoo made one change to the side that started in their 3-0 win over Algeria on Tuesday, starting with former skipper Brackcides Agala in place of Kenya Pipeline middle blocker Trizah Atuka. The rest, Janet Wanja, Edith Wisah, Noel Murambi, skipper Mercy Moim, libero Elizabeth Wanyama and Violet Makuto retained their places in the starting seven.
The third set showed the gulf in class between the imposing Kenyans and the girls from Botswana, with Malkia Strikers going for the first and second technical timeouts in full command at 8-4 and 16-6 before taking the set 25-11.
The same can be said of the first set where Kenya led 8-5 and 16-8 at the first and second TTOs, with Ramdoo making a raft of changes during the set in a bid to find the best rotations as he sharpens his team ahead of the knockout stage.
The second set was really no different, with Botswana playing catch up for the whole period, trailing 7-8, 13-16 before losing 18-25.
The top two teams from both pools will advance to the semi-finals.
Cameroon 3-0 Botswana (25-12, 25-17, 25-10)
Kenya 3-0 Algeria (25-19, 25-21, 25-21)
Kenya 3-0 Botswana (25-16, 25-18, 25-11)