In volleyball, the position of setter is as instrumental to forward attacking play as is that of point-guard in basketball.
Or attacking midfielder in football, for that matter.
Over the years, Jane Wacu and Janet Wanja have been the pin-up girls of Kenyan volleyball, standing out in their role of setter for the “Malkia Strikers.”
They dominated the position as their own until Joy Lusenaka broke through the ranks early this year during the African Olympic qualifiers in Cameroon. Lusenaka partnered with Wacu after Wanja opted out of national duty citing personal reasons.
And now, youngster Emmaculate Nekesa says she is ready to offer further competition in the setting department.
Nekesa, who turns out for KCB Ladies Volleyball Team, said seniority will count for nothing, and that she’s ready to fight for a place higher up the “Malkia Strikers” pecking order.
“I'm aware the (setter’s) position has lacked competition for the longest time. Wanja and Wacu are players I look up to, and I respect them for what they have done and continue doing for the sport.
“However, I'm keen to muscle for the slot going forward,” declared the confident, 17-year-old alumna of national volleyball queens Kwanthanze Secondary School.
Speaking after an individual training session at the Drive-In grounds off the Thika Super Highway, Nekesa said it’s first things first as she angles for a starting position with the bankers first.
At KCB, Nekesa, who was part of the national girls’ team for the CAVB Zone Five Africa Youth Games qualifiers in Kampala in 2018, will compete against Joan Muindi, Ernestine Akimanizanye (Rwanda) and Sharleen Maiwoy who ditched the Directorate of Criminal Investigations team to join bankers this season.
“It has to start at club level. The training at the club is totally different from that of secondary school volleyball, but so far so good.
“The training has been intense and I'm learning and improving my skills as days go by," said Nekesa, who was at Kabuyefwe Secondary School in Western Kenya before moving to Eastern’s Kwanthanze.
Nekesa also revealed that she was approached by Kenya Pipeline Company this season after completing her high school education last year, but she elected to settle for KCB.
“I settled for KCB because I have had a soft spot for them since my secondary school days, and I'm glad I'm part of the team now,” she explains.
KCB’s libero, Lincy Jeruto, who was training alongside Nekesa, is equally hopeful she will make the national team after being overlooked in recent times. Jeruto was in the provisional squad for the Olympic qualifiers but was dropped as Aggripina Kundu and Elizabeth Wanyama made the cut.
“The position is competitive, but I'm willing to grow and to one day, wear the national team colours,” said the 25-year-old student of business administration at the St Paul's University.