Malkia Strikers go down fighting against Netherlands

Wednesday March 18 2020

Kenya outside hitter and captain Mercy Moimk blocks an attack from a Netherlands player during their FIVB World Cup match in Hamamatsu, Japan on September 15, 2019. PHOTO | FIVB


Malkia Strikers lost to Netherlands in straight sets (12-25, 19-25, 17-25) in their second match of the ongoing FIVB World Cup in Hamamatsu, Japan.

Just like in the opener against US on Saturday, Kenya started slowly in the first set before picking up in the next two where they turned in decent displays.

Skipper Mercy Moim led from the front with nine points, Violet Makuto had seven while Sharon Chepchumba got six. Middle blocker Trizah Atuka and outside hitter Leonida Kasaya also posted impressive tallies of five and four respectively.

Once again Emmaculate Chemtai and Carolyne Sirengo featured sparingly despite Kenya coach Paul Bitok rotating his squad.

It was the second meeting between these two sides who clashed in the Inter Continental Olympic qualifiers in Catania, Italy last month with the Dutch winning by a similar margin.

But on account of Sunday's result, Bitok noted that his side has improved greatly.

"I can say the Kenya team came into this match knowing we will be playing against the Netherlands, a team we played against a few months ago in Olympic qualifiers. We lost with bad scores then - one set we lost 25-7. So we wanted today to try our best and improve our scores.

"Coming into today, we wanted to relax and enjoy and not to have any pressure. The Netherlands had more pressure than us. We pushed them, especially on the service and it worked for us. At some point, we were very close in the scores. What is still remaining for us is to start good because we are always following from behind. At one time, we were losing 9-1 and we managed to reach 13-13. I hope that what we have experienced today will help us for the next match and if we continue like this, it will get better and better," said Bitok.

His Netherlands counterpart Jamie Morrison spoke along the same breath, terming Kenya a "better" side than the one they faced in Italy.

"Kenya have gotten better in the last two months. I was especially impressed with their defence in the first set and their serve in the second set got us into trouble. I’m happy with the result. We will continue to improve as this tournament goes on. I thought there were pieces today that were better than yesterday, so we will continue to improve tomorrow night against Brazil," said Morrison.

Netherlands captain Maret Balkestein-Grothues was the star of the show as her game-high 11 propelled her side to victory.

Kenya, who are ranked 11th on the 12-team log, next face Serbia on Monday in Hamamatsu. The tournament, which has attracted 12 nations, is being played in round robin format.

Additional reporting by FIVB.