Malkia Strikers three sets away from Tokyo

By Dennis Okeyo: Friday, January 10th 2020 at 21:53 GMT +3 | Volleyball and Handball
Malkia Strikers celebrate after beating Cameroon 3-2 during the Africa qualifiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon on January 7, 2020. [Courtesy]

Malkia Strikers face Nigeria today hoping to seal a place at the Tokyo Olympic Games after winning the war against hosts and main rivals Cameroon with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday.

The victory in what was dubbed the ‘decisive match’ at the ongoing Africa qualifiers in Yaoundé, means that Malkia Strikers only need to beat Nigeria and they will be on the plane to Tokyo in July. 

Malkia Strikers player Sharon Chepchumba celebrates after helping her team beat Cameroon 3-2 during the Africa qualifiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon on January 7, 2020. [Courtesy]

Coach Paul Bitok hailed his side’s fighting spirit but was quick to remind the girls that the ticket was not secured yet and they need to stay focused until the final game at 6 pm today.

“The match was one of a kind, it was a battle of titans. It was against one of our arch rivals and while I commend my team for getting us closer to a qualification spot, I would like to give credit to Cameroon,” said Bitok in a Facebook post after the match.

Bitok further said: “They saw us fight to the wire. This match is in the past now, I would like to urge my team to keep their heads high as we have an important game against Nigeria. We must not relent, we should avoid complacency by all means as our opponent is preparing accordingly. Great thanks to all players and staff and all Kenyans. Until victory always.”

Team captain Mercy Moim is optimistic Kenya will qualify for the Olympics when they take on Nigeria today.

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“We have to beat Nigeria, they are not a very strong opponent this time around, but we are not leaving anything chance. We want to beat them 3-0,“ Moim told Standard Sports yesterday.

Kenya last met Nigeria at the 2017 Africa Championship where Malkia Strikers defeated the West Africans 3-0.

Kenya featured at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympic Games but failed to qualify for the Games in 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio).

Malkia Strikers and coach Paul Bitok celebrate after beating Cameroon 3-2 during the Africa qualifiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon on January 7, 2020. [Courtesy]

In their match against Cameroon who are bidding for their second consecutive Olympic appearance after finishing 11th at Rio 2016, Kenya took the first set 25-16, before the hosts turned their guns in the second set to win 25-23.

Kenya came out strong in the third set to win 25-21 before Cameroon’s Lionesses won the closely contested fourth set in 25-23.

Spearheaded by powerful left attacker Sharon Chepchumba, the Malkia Strikers took control of the tiebreaker winning it 15-11.

The match was Kenyans’ third victory at the championships having swept aside Egypt 3-1 and topping against Botswana 3-0.

 

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