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Volleyball: No retreat, no surrender for Kenya’s Malkia Strikers

Kenya volleyball team Captain Mercy Moim. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

National women's volleyball team Malkia Strikers served off their Olympic campaign with a loss against the hosts Japan on Sunday, but there were a lot of positives from the African queens despite falling 25-15, 25-11 and 25-23.

It was a meeting between the fifth ranked nation in the world and the 24th ranked side, but despite the scoreline, there was evidence that Kenya was slowly closing in on the rest of the world.

Kenyan coach Luizomar de Moura might not be happy with the scoreline, but he will take courage in the nature of the fight that his charges showed especially in the opening exchanges of the match.

Assistant coach Paul Bitok was full of praise for his team saying this was the first time that they have given Japan a scare.

“I want to say sorry for not being able to win the match today. I have not seen Japan at this level before. When we started the match I saw there was promise of us winning the match, but the players later lost concentration and just thought about Japan and not putting emphasis on their game,” Bitok said.

Bitok said the finishing was the problem for the team especially in the third set which the Kenyans at one time led 22-22.

“I am seeing a bright future of us beating these Asian countries who have always beaten us with speed work, but we have now moved closer to them. We have improved our game a great deal and I know we can do better in the next game,” Bitok said.

On her part, team captain Mercy Moim said it was a learning process but she was very proud of her team and promised even more in the next matches considering they have not played a competitive match since they booked qualification to the Olympics.

The Kenyans rattled the home team who started nervously in front of the empty Ariake Arena and at one time it looked like there was an upset in the offing, but the homegirls soon settled.

There were a lot of positives though from the Kenyans, as they seemed to have cut down on the mistakes witnessed in past matches before the Olympics and were also more technical especially in the opening set.

The hosts, however, turned to their more tactical part of the game once they realised the Kenyans were standing up to them as they turned more to using backcourt pipe attacks to get away from the well drilled defence from Edith Wisa and Sharon Chechumba.

Team captain Moim also contributed with good service, but the hosts responded with quick attacks, but youngsters Gladys Ekaru and Leonida Kasaya also showed they are ready for the big stage.

When the going got tough for the Kenyans, coach Moura resorted to using the challenge system which at times slowed down the Japanese but also helped the Kenyans get some points which could only be picked by the challenge system and not the referees.

The Japanese put up a strong show in the second set, but it was a different case in the third set in what was a closely found fight in a much better show by Malkia Strikers.

At one time Malkia Strikers looked to be on course to winning the third set as they led 22-21, by the experience from the Japanese won the day.

Setter Jane Wacu and attacker Chepchumba were all still trying to get answers on how they failed to win the third set, but they promised to fight hard in the next match.

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