2019 in Review: Kenyan volleyball clubs blew hot and cold

 Review, Stanley Mativo

As the curtains fall on 2019, the national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers,  posted mixed results but in a bigger percentage, the Kenyan lasses failed to punch equal to their weight yet again after Cameroon reigned supreme in Africa.

Despite winning the African Games title in August 31 in Morocco, Malkia Strikers’ hopes of clinching a record extending 10th Africa title at 2019 Women’s African Nations Volleyball Championship went up in smoke against familiar foe Cameroon for the second time in as many years.

In an explosive showdown played at 6 October Hall in Cairo, Egypt, on July 14, the tie served up a gripping five-setter ending in favour of Cameroon with swing sets of 25-23, 26-24, 25-22, 25-21 and 26-27 and the West African country won the prestigious title for the second time in a row.

In 2017, Cameroon ended Kenya’s dominance in Africa after clinching their first ever biannual championship title thrashing Malkia Strikers 3-1 in the finals held in Yaoundé.

Immediately after falling short in Africa, the nine-time African champions left for Italy for Inter-continental 2020 Olympics qualifiers where they lost all the matches in straight sets against world-beaters Netherlands, Belgium and World Championships runners up Italy.

Kenya Prisons women volleyball team celebrate at Kasarani.PHOTO/Stanley Mativo/Citizen Digital

After failing to clinch the Olympics ticket in Italy, Malkia Strikers will have another bite at the cherry in January during the African qualifiers in Cameroon where they will be eyeing a return at the Games after a 15-year drought.

African Games title glory

Prior to All African Games championship, Malkia had earned the chance to defend their 2015 title after beating hosts Uganda 3-0( 25-20, 25-17, 25-16) at the Zone V African Games qualifiers at the MTN Lugogo Indoor Arena in Kampala in May.

Overall, Kenya who were under the tutelage of Italian Shaileen Ramdoo and Japheth Munala — won the four team tournament in style– beating Ethiopia and Rwanda in straight sets and never looking in threat of conceding a set. They clinched the sole Zone V ticket for African Games.

In Morocco, the Kenyan lasses launched their title defence quest against Cameroon winning 3-1 before spiking Senegal and Algeria in the other preliminary matches.

Under the leadership of Paul Bitok who had been appointed to replace sacked Ramdoo before the championship served off, Malkia spiked Nigeria in the semi finals setting-up yet another duel with Cameroon.

Kenya went ahead to thrash Cameroon by 3-1 sets to retain their 2015 title winning it for the fifth time.

Poor show in global stage

The East African queens yet again faltered at the global scene after finishing position 11 out of 12 teams at the 2019 FIVB World Cup Championship held in Japan in September.

The Kenyan queens lost 10 successive matches with straight sets against world-beaters picking a consolation win and their only one against fellow Africans Cameroon on the final day of the tourney played in a round-robin format.

Malkia were meant to go there and make a mark but in the end failed to measure up.

Before the serve off, head coach Paul Bitok had lifted the pressure of winning the title off his charges but Malkia Strikers failed to attain their target of improving their previous world cup record.

In 2015, the African Games champions under David Lungáho defeated Peru and Algeria to finish 10th out of 13 teams.

No respite for Kenyan clubs

In the months of March and April, at the Women and Men CAVB African Club Championships held in Egypt, Kenyan teams failed to match the might of their North African counterparts as the four teams which represented Kenya – Prisons (women team), Pipeline and KCB, GSU and Prisons men   – all crashed out without claiming a medal to their name.

Kenya surrendered the Women’s African crown in 2013 when Prison lost to Algeria’s GSP having won it for over three years in a row. No Kenyan team has won the crown since then.

In the women’s contest, where Kenya has had her dominance reverberate across Africa in yester-years, the reign has seemingly come to an end, after Prisons and Pipeline failed to reclaim the continental title yet again.

Instead, Pipeline defended the bronze medal after spiking GSP of Algeria by straight sets in the third place play-offs.

It was a bitter affair for Kenya Prisons after the Government ordered their immediate repatriation accusing the team of sneaking out of the country.

The Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) women league champions had been bundled out at the preliminary stage of the Championship but were set to feature playoff matches before their predicament came knocking.

Kenya Prisons women volleyball team celebrate their title triumph by toasting their head coach in the air at the Kasarani Indoor Arena on Sunday.PHOTO/Stanley Mativo/Citizen Digital

“The State Department for Correctional Services neither cleared nor financed the team’s travel to Cairo and was surprised to learn of its presence outside the country.

“Given the breach of protocol and the contravention of rules regarding public servants’ travel overseas, the government has immediately organized for their repatriation tonight,” the Principal Secretary State Department for Correctional Services, Zeinab Hussein said in a withering assessment of the situation.

Returnees KCB who were making a comeback after a long hiatus also crashed out at the preliminary stages.

Egypt’s Al Ahly clinched their 10th unprecedented title after thrashing the Tunisians by sets of 21-25, 25-15, 25-11 and 25-19 in the finals.

In men’s category, General Service Unit (GSU) and Kenya Prisons also failed to rise to the occasion exiting in the knockout stages to keep Kenya waiting for their first ever African Men Club Championship title.