St Anthony's praying for national glory

St Anthony's Boys Kitale hockey team players with their coach Kevin Lugalia during last year's  Rift Valley Secondary School Term One Games in Eldoret. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

As they prepare for the Kenya Secondary School Sports Association (KSSSA) National Term One Games, eight-time national boys' hockey champions St Anthony's Boys Kitale are ready to reclaim the title and qualify for the East Africa Schools Games slated for August.

The Rift Valley giants were defeated 1-0 by Musingu High School from the Western Region in the finals last year.

Although it will not be easy to get to the regional games, head coach Kevin Lugalia said they will be taking one match at a time in the national championships without underrating any of their opponents. The games set to be held at Machakos Boys High School will kick off on Tuesday.

“All teams that are coming to this event are champions in their own regions. Therefore, we cannot afford to underrate any of them because they are regional champions who are equally angling to win the same ticket,” Lugalia told Standard Sports.

St Anthony is in Group B together with Katangi from Eastern, defending champions Musingu and Murang’a Hig from the Central region.

He said they will re-strategise after qualifying for the knockout stages.

“We are taking a match at a time from the group stages before we get to the knockout stages. When we get there (knockout stages), we’ll come up with strategies to overcome our opponents at that time,” the coach pointed out.

He said they must be at their best and win all five matches if they want to be declared the national champions.

“We need to play and win all five matches to be declared the champions. We are ready for the epic task ahead of us,” the coach explained.

Lugalia said they have had enough training sessions to improve on their fitness levels for the past few weeks.

“It has not been easy to assemble the boys for the training sessions after the schools were closed. My joy is we overcame the challenges that were a stumbling block before we started residential training. For now, the morale is good as we prepare to depart to Machakos tomorrow (today),” said the coach.

Pressed to reveal the challenges they faced, Lugalia said it wasn’t easy to convince some parents to release their children for residential training after schools had closed.

“But after we spoke to them (parents) about the need to do so, they agreed to release them,” he said.

And as the team heads to Machakos, Lugalia said he has a formidable squad that is ready to fight for top honours.

They include goalkeeper Leslie Nasa, defenders Japheth Kilimo, Newton Fifa and Henry Wanyonyi.

The midfielders are Adrian Mukanda, Newton Liyambu, Leon Denga and Norman Midigo, Kevin Onyango and Bernard Cheruiyot with Ricky Elijah as their striker.

“These are players who have what it takes to battle for the national title. They have proved so from the zonal to the regional level. From the way we have trained, they are ready to reclaim the. But we can only achieve this through teamwork,” said the coach.

Midfielder Bernard Cheruiyot echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“In sports, everything is possible. We are serious in our quest to win the national title with our eyes set on the East Africa games later in the year,” said Cheruiyot.

Just like Cheruiyot, goalkeeper Leslie Nasa said they are leaving nothing to chance in their quest to reclaim the title.

And Lugalia added by saying, “Sky is the limit and we are not relenting on this.”

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