Kenya on Wednesday went down 3-1 to Nigeria in their second pool A match of the ongoing U-20 Africa Cup of Nations Championship at the Kasarani Indoor Arena.
The hosts had won the opening set 25-19, but the West Africans hit back to win 26-24, 25-18 and 25-23 to claim the win.
This result leaves Kenya with a 1:1 win-loss ratio at the tournament, plus a must-win clash against Cameroon on Thursday evening with a place in the semi-finals of the competition at stake for the winning team.
Kenya coach Paul Gitau shuffled his squad ahead of this contest, bringing on Immaculate Misiko and Lydia Emokol, but these changes didn’t stop his team from experiencing some baptism of fire earlier on.
The Kenyans trailed 3-8 at the first technical time out of the opening set against the physically bigger Nigerians.
A combination of exciting interchange of play from Emokol and Sifuna coupled with some poor services from the Nigerians helped Kenya harness a six-point advantage at the end of the set.
A three-minute pep-talk conducted by three Nigerian coaches seem to do the trick ahead of set two, with the West Africans quickly recovering from conceding 2-4 earlier on to dominate the entirety of the game.
In the meantime, coach Gitau as expected, opted to retaliate in the chess game of tactics. The veteran trainer brought on Belinda Nanjala for a tiring Stacey Otieno in a bid to shore up the blocking department.
This tactic partially worked with Kenya leading the second set 8-6 at some point, but then the West Africans powered back to claim a 26-24 victory.
The Kenyans dropped off physically after that, leaving room for Nigeria to easily win the remaining two sets with a seven and two point margin.
Earlier at the same venue, Uganda lost their second match of the competition following a 3-0 (25-17, 25-8, 25-16) loss to neighbours Rwanda.