It’s season to forget in Kenyan volleyball arena

Malkia Strikers' Coach Japheth Munala (right) with players during their match of the 2017 CAVB Zone V World Championship Qualifiers against Rwanda at Kasarani Gymnasium in July. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Just like the previous season, there is nothing to write home about the Kenyan volleyball this year –save for the individual accolades the players received at the continental scene.

The stagnated level of the game, particularly in the women’s volleyball, aptly summarises 2017 as another bad season for Kenya in the recent years.

Malkia Strikers’ dominance in the continent is slowly but strongly being interrupted by a fast-improving Cameroon, who have even leapfrogged them at the top of the continental rankings.

Kenya found the going tough in Yaoundé after they had easily qualified for the African Nations Cup finals with an unbeaten run of straight sets against perennial rivals Egypt, Rwanda and Uganda at Kasarani in July.

Malkia Strikers, who were chasing a record tenth title and fourth trophy of the biennial championship in a row, fell short of expectations as they relinquished the title to the more-exposed and fast-improving West Africans after falling by straight sets (25-22, 25-19, 29-27) in the final in October. This was the Cameroonian’s first ever continental title.

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Despite qualifying for next year’s FIVB World Championship in Japan, Kenya head coach Japheth Munala is worried of Cameroon’s meteoric rise after a successful year that saw them also participate in the prestigious FIVB World Grand Prix, which Kenya missed.

“Cameroon’s participation in the Olympic Games and the Grand Prix has strengthened them both mentally and tactically. It has changed their pattern of play and given them courage,” Munala told Standard Sports.

“They are now a force to reckon with. But what we need as a team is enough time for preparation, gel and form a winning pattern.”

However,  it is the Kenya Prisons duo of Mercy Moim and Edith Wisa who had something to smile about in Cameron as they two walked away with individual awards.

Impressive Wisa was named the best blocker –her second continental award after winning the same accolade at the Club championship in Tunisia, while her captain Moim scooped the best attacker award.

Wisa, who had a stellar year winning the Star Times/SJAK  Sports Personality for the month of October, capped it off by winning the 2017 Magharibi Michezo Awards overall player of the year.

“Individually, this has been my best year. I am motivated to work extra hard and retain the trophies next year,” said Wisa.

The pair’s recognition came barely four months after Violet Makuto, Moim and Janet Wanja had received the Most Valuable player, best attacker and best setter awards respectively during the continental qualifiers in Nairobi.

Poland-based attacker Gaudencia Makokha and Naomi Too represented Kenya at the beach World Championships in Austria but finished 37th in the 48-team tournament after losing all their three group matches.

The Kenya U-23 women’s team also failed to sparkle on the international scene, performing dismally at the 2017 FIVB Women’s U23 World Championship in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

It was another disastrous outing at the competition for the young Malkia Strikers as their wait for the first win and set continues after failing to win a single Group B match.

Just like the 2013 performance in Mexico, Kenya finished last following an identical 4-0 defeats to Brazil, Bulgaria, Turkey, Cuba and Japan.

“My players tried their best in their first international tournament. They had a good experience here. I believe when they return they will work on their mistakes. In the next championships, they will perform better,” said Catherine Mabwi, the Kenya U-23 head coach.

Remarkable perfomance

And while the women’s teams were struggling, the men’s team restored some pride with their performance at the African Nations Cup cum World Championship Qualifiers in October, in Egypt.

The Moses Epoloto’s charges finished tenth overall after winning three of their six matches. This was just four months after they had produced a remarkable performance to beat hosts and favourites Rwanda 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21) in a decisive African Nations Cup/World Championship qualifiers in Kigali.

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