Kenya’s first international match on foreign soil was sour as they began their campaign of the world women volleyball under 23 championships in Slovenia by losing to champions Brazil on Sunday at the packed Sportna Dvorana Tivolo hall in Ljubljana.
Despite a late rally in the final two sets of the game, the inexperienced Kenyans playing their first international match lost 4-0 (15-2, 15-5, 15-12, 15-10) in the opening match of the volleyball Women's U-23 Championship, they could only play catch up to the mighty Brazilians.
“Brazil was a tough opponent today. My team tried very well. The score was okay. It’s only a few mistakes here and there. Otherwise, for the first international match the girls did very well," retorted Kenya’s Coach Catherine Mabwi who also added that despite the loss, her girls are in good shape and are confident to win their next games.
The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) has introduced a new system which was tried first in all matches played in Ljubljana. The new system has a new scoring pattern that is faster than the older one currently being tested: a best-of-seven, 15-point set format.
Brazil took command of the game from the word go, opting to pile a pressure on Kenya's back court which was guarded by Joan Ng'eywo and Doreen Marani. The tactic paid off, with the favorites ultimately racing into an undisputed 13 point advantage at the end of the opening set.
Coach Catherine Mabwi's charges seemed to fashion some resolve from somewhere in the proceeding set, and pushed the opponents to a 4-4 tie in the opening period. However, the Kenyan team wasn't consistent enough and the reigning champions Brazil capitalized fully to rake up a 15-5 advantage.
Kenya had their best moments in the third set where the scores stood at 10-10 at some point but again failed in rallying on to pick at least a set. However the Kenyans refused to blame anyone or anything for their failure to beat brazil under the new system bearing in mind that the Kenyans trained under old facilities with little or no technological equipment as they headed to a big game against mighty opponents.
“I am not sad that we lost our first match here. We did our best in the match that was our first international game. We should improve our start. This is crucial for winning more points. I think that in the next games we will improve as we are all hoping for the best," the optimistic Kenya captain Shyrine Jepkemboi said.
Brazil’s Captain Drussyla contributed an impressive haul to her team’s point tally to emerge top scorer in the game as Kenya's left attacker Yvonne Snaida was Kenya's best scorer with an impressive five points.
The new system includes a 15-point set format (instead of 25) and a best of seven sets to determine the winning team (other than the previous best of five). This implies that a side has to win four sets to be declared winner.
"For someone that is only watching the match it looked good on court. But for the players on the court the new pointing system is very, very fast. And we have to keep our concentration all the game," Brazil coach Wagner Coppini said but also refused to comment on whether the new system was good or bad.
Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic also handed Africa’s other representatives Egypt a 4-2 loss (12-15, 15-6, 15-8, 15-12, 19-7) in the other game played on Sunday.