From the closely contested semi-final matches yesterday, National Secondary School games champions gave indications of tough finals today as they booked their tickets to the East African competitions set for August in Rwanda.
A number of teams proved that they had not reached the nationals last year by chance.
The penultimate matches staged in Eldoret saw national hockey champions Rift Valley’s St Anthony’s Boys Kitale book a ticket to today’s finals in a dramatic contest against Central’s Mang’u High, which ended 1-1 in regulation time.
The St Anthony v Mang’u clash had to be decided by penalty flicks, which the national champions won 4-3 to return to the finals and defend their 2022 hockey title.
The afternoon match was played under wet and rainy conditions at the Hill School Eldoret grounds, which is also hosting the final face-off.
St Anthony is playing Musingu from the Western region which beat Meru School from Eastern 2-0 in the semis yesterday. Teams playing the finals have already booked their tickets to Rwanda.
“It was one of the toughest matches in the games and we are lucky to have progressed to the finals, and to get the opportunity to defend our title," St Anthony tactician Kevin Lugalia said after the adrenaline-filled match against Mang’u.
"Our target in these competitions was to retain our title and we are hopeful of achieving that during the finals."
Tigoi from Western and Nyamira will battle for the girls’ hockey title after stunning St Joseph’s Girls Kitale and Nyamira Girls respectively during mid-morning thrillers at Hill School.
The Western side is making a comeback to the nationals, after losing to Sinyolo 1-0 in 2016 and facing a 2-1 humiliation from Trans Nzoia Mixed in 2018.
Tigoi’s Abigael Jelagat and Jane Andala scored for the Western giants in the 5th and 20th minutes respectively before Tracy Korir pulled a goal back for St Joseph’s in the 33rd minute.
“We are ready to face Nyamira at the finals and take home the national trophy. We are happy to make it to the finals and East Africa,” Tigoi coach Moses Erima said.
Meanwhile, national handball defending champions Moi Girls Kamusinga easily qualified to the finals to set up a repeat of the 2022 clash against archrivals St Joseph’s Girls.
Kamusinga which is representing the Western region thrashed Nyathuna from Central 29-7 while St Joseph’s which ranked second last year beat Miranga from Nyanza 22-16.
“Nyathuna was a good team and we worked so hard to win and proceed to the finals. St Joseph’s is tough, but we are ready to face them at the finals. We met them last year and we know they are tough,” Godfrey Simiyu, Moi Kamusinga’s coach, said.
St Joseph’s Girls coach Maureen Sitati responded: “We met Kamusinga last year and this time round, we are more prepared for them. We are at the finals for the win.”