Kenya’s Malkia Strikers have qualified for this weekend’s (July 10-13) FIVB Grand Prix finals.
This is their first ever second round qualification in a world event, which will be played in Canberra, Australia, after breaking an away win jinx against hosts Algeria on Monday morning to finish top of Pool Q with seven points.
On-form Prisons Kenya left attacker Mercy Moim surpassed 20-point mark, scoring 26 points including four blocks and three aces to propel the nine-time African Champions to a hard-fought 3-2 (20-25, 25-15, 23-25, 25-13, 15-13) win over Algeria at the Cheraga Omni Sport Hall.
Algeria twice went ahead but Kenya responded emphatically, taking the second set 25-15 and the fourth 25-13, sending the match to a tiebreaker.
Moim was followed by captain Brackcides Agala who scored 16 points with Kenya Pipeline centre Ruth Jepngetich leading the blocking with sevens points. This was Kenya’s third victory in a row against Algeria in less than a month and their first away win against the North Africans since 2007.
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The victory saw the African Queens leapfrog Cuba into the third position on the Group Three table standings behind leaders Peru and Colombia. Kenya are tied on points (10) with Cuba, edged out the latter by virtue of having won more matches (4 against 3).
And after the match, Kenyan head coach David Lung’aho couldn’t hide his joy following his side’s double record; breaking the Algiers jinx and booking a play-offs ticket.
“It’s amazing to see players extend their winning ways from Kenya to Algeria. Fresh from beating Algeria in Africa Nations Championship, the players proved yet again they are a force to reckon with in the continent by hitting them at their own backyard,” said Lung’aho.
“It’s a fantastic performance from the players. After winning only one match in Mexico, they made amends and recorded three wins. I am very proud to be part of the team. Generally, it also speaks volume of my coaching career and I am proud to have made history for winning against the arch-rivals who were celebrating their independence day.
“Our objective was to qualify for the final round and I am happy we have achieved that. Focus shifts now to Australia leg, but the positive thing is that we are familiar with our opponents. We have played them before and therefore we will take one game at a time and hope to post good results.”
Kenya Pipeline promising centre Triza Atuka was similarly excited by the team’s exploits.
“We thank God for the 3-2 win against Algeria and qualifying for the final round of the Grand Prix after finishing number three,” said Atuka.
The team was expected to depart for Australia yesterday.