Malkia Strikers leave the country tomorrow night, for the 18th edition of the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship that will throw off on September 29 and culminate on October 20.
The team was scheduled to travel on Tuesday night but a holdup in tickets and a change of airline brought about the delay, reducing their previously intended 10-day training camp to just seven days.
Two of the seven days will have to be spent in the host city for their pool matches, as FIVB requires teams to report by September 27th. The tournament will take place in six cities,Hamamatsu, Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Yokohama.
Coach Japheth Munala is, however, confident the players have had sufficient preparations and the scheduled friendly matches away in Japan will add to their skills as they face a tough Pool D that has Serbia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Kazakhstan.
“We started our preparations in June with 30 players, reduced the number to 22 and then further to 14 so we could prepare as a unit. Jane Wacu and Sharon Jepchumba have since recovered from injuries sustained in training and the squad is ready to go. The pool is tough but we will fight to finish in the top-four,” said Munala.
Malkia defeated Egypt 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-19) in the semi-finals of the CAVB tournament that doubled up as the World Championship qualifier to book the slot. They, however, lost to hosts Cameroon in the finals to qualify as runners-up. Cameroon had downed Senegal 3-0 in the semis.
Munala’s charges are making a return to the World Championship having missed the last showpiece held in 2014 in Italy, where Africa was represented by Cameroon and Tunisia.
Kenya last featured in the 16th edition of the tournament held in Japan in 2010 where the team finished tied last after losing all five pool matches. They lost by straight sets to Brazil, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Italy and Czech Republic.
“We have since improved on the team’s back court defence, reception and our attack is good. We have had several build-up matches, with those against men’s sides providing the much-needed courage and confidence to face tough teams like Serbia and Brazil. We are at par with Kazakhstan, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and can pick wins in those encounters,” said Munala.
On her part, captain Mercy Moim says that playing build-up matches against local men’s teams has helped improve their reception and back court defence. She adds that experience in the World Grand Prix will help the team hold their own against tough opponents, further singling out National Oil’s sponsorship as a source of motivation as they head to Japan.