Kenya’s national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, began their Africa Nations Cup campaign with a convincing win over Algeria which was followed with a thrashing of Botswana.
Malkia, who are targeting to clinch their 10th African Cup, managed to beat the North African team 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-21) on Tuesday. The effect of having a foreign coach is finally being felt after the Italian’s four months of work as Kenya went ahead to hammer Botswana 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-11)
Italian Coach Shaileen Ramdoo led Kenya to a cruise control from the start of the tournament with a 3-0 victory over the threatening Algeria. The team began the onset with a deserving 8-7 lead at the first technical timeout before pulling away 13-9. Malkia maintained the four point lead to the second technical timeout leading 16-12 and finally claimed the set at 25-19.
The remaining two sets proved to be somewhat difficult for Malkia as Algeria narrowed the gap a couple of time but Kenya still manage to win all three sets. It was during the second quarter of the Algeria match that Ramdoo started thinking of substitutions and giving key players a rest. She brought in Kenya Prisons centre Edith Wisa for Trizah Atuka, then setter Jane Wacu replaced Janet Wanja as players were rested for the Botswana game.
The Botswana match was easy as Malkia Strikers did not have to work to earn all the three sets. Ramdoo made one change to the side that started in their 3-0 win over Algeria on Tuesday, starting with former skipper Brackcides Agala in place of Kenya Pipeline middle blocker Trizah Atuka. The rest, Janet Wanja, Edith Wisah, Noel Murambi, skipper Mercy Moim, libero Elizabeth Wanyama and Violet Makuto retained their places in the starting seven.
The third set showed the difference in class between Malkia strikers and the girls from Botswana as Kenya went into the first and second TTO in full command at 8-4 and 16-6 before taking the set 25-11. The second set was really no different, with Botswana playing catch up for the whole period, trailing 7-8, 13-16 before losing 18-25.
Malkia strikers now have a date with the Cameroon girls in a match that will determine the first and second placed finishers in the group as both teams have already qualified. Cameroon, the defending champions, showed their might by hitting Botswana and Algeria with 3-0 sets each which makes them on level points with Malkia strikers.
The runners up of Group B (Malkia’s group) will face off with Egypt at the semis, which is not a very likeable opponent for both Kenya and Cameroon. This makes the clash between Malkia Strikers and Cameroon.
The Kenya versus Cameroon match has already been dubbed “the final before the final” with the two sides having contested for the title in the 2017 edition where the West Africans won 3-1.