The national women's volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, are one-match away from a record extending 10th Africa Nations Championships title after easing through to the final with a routine 3-0 (25-13, 25-13, 25-20) win over Senegal on Saturday at the October 6 Hall in Giza, Egypt.
Kenya will face either hosts Egypt or defending champions Cameroon, who were due to face-off in the other last four encounter later Saturday night, in the final set for Sunday at the same venue.
The build up to the match was a stormy one, with Kenyans calling out the Sports Ministry under the Hashtag #IStandWithMalkia in a campaign that went viral online over the government's failure to pay the players their allowances.
On the court, Kenya’s head coach Shaileen Ramdoo made two changes to his starting six, bringing in centre Trizah Atuka and right attacker Emmaculate Chemtai for Brackcides Agala and Violet Makuto, after the duo started on the bench in the last two Group B matches against Botswana and Cameroon.
The Kenyan girls had a blistering start to the match, racing to a 5-0 lead before Senegal coach Amadou Sène called for a quick timeout, but this didn’t halt Malkia Strikers’ momentum, extending their lead to 7-0 before going for the first technical timeout at 8-2.
The unrelenting Kenyans further had 10-4, 13-5, 14-5 leads punctuating the scoresheet before going for the second TTO comfortably at 16-8.
Two more points for the Kenyans and the Senegalese coach called for a quick timeout, which also allowed Ramdoo to rest Atuka for rookie Kenya Pipeline middle blocker Gladys Ekaru.
Malkia Strikers would then pull away to 23-8, then 24-8. The West Africans then scored five unanswered points, before shooting themselves on the foot after sending the ball straight to the net from a service.
The second set was more competitive in the opening stages, with the Kenyans taking an 8-6 and 16-9 lead into the first and second TTOs respectively. The Senegalese girls had no answer for the Malkia Strikers’ firepower from thereafter.
The final set felt more like a training routine, with Chemtai – who was impressive all evening perhaps sending a message to the coach ahead of Sunday’s final – giving Kenya its first point, before they raced to a 4-0 lead. Then 5-2, 7-2 leads would prompt the West Africans to conjure a mini-come back. Tying it at 7-7 before Chemtai’s stinging spike ensured Kenya head for the first TTO 8-7 ahead.
And the Senegalese girls refused to go away. They were trailing 9-7, then pulled back to level 11-11, then 14-13 down, before surrendering 16-14 at the second TTO.
Kenya’s reception was their main undoing, before Ramdoo brought Sharon Chepchumba for centre Edith Wisah at 14-13. Malkia then pulled away to 20-16, 24-17 before the Senegalese girls served outside to hand Kenya another chance to collect their unprecedented 10th crown in the final on Sunday.