• The win brings Kenya closer to securing the Tokyo 2020 ticket as they face Nigeria in their last duel. So far Kenya is the only team with 100 per cent win rate.
Kenya national women's volleyball team lived late to edge hosts Cameroon- their main threat on Tuesday night at the ongoing CAVB Tokyo Olympic qualifiers in Yaoundé.
The five-set thriller that got both spectators at the arena and Kenyan fans following the proceedings via live stream on Facebook sitting at the edge of their seats was a give-and-take affair to the end.
The win brings Kenya closer to securing the Tokyo 2020 ticket as they face Nigeria in their last duel. So far Kenya is the only team with 100 per cent win rate.
Kenya Volleyball Federation president and the Team Kenya Chef De Mission Waithaka Kioni who had asked Malkia Strikers to garner the Olympic berth as a goodbye gift to him a as a volleyball administrator said:
"Thank you God. Thank you Team Kenya, we are proud of you."
Malkia Strikers took commanded the opening set, taking an 8-6 at the first Technical Timeout (TTO) and went on to lead 10-6, 14-7 and 16-7 at the second TTO. The hosts kept chasing from behind but Kenya continued to stretch the gap to 21-10 and eventually won the set 25-16.
The second set was a neck-to-neck showdown as Paul Bitok's charges grabbed a 5-4 and 7-5 advantage and thereafter the Cameroon Lionesses turned tables. They stopped Kenya at seven points to take the driver's seat (7-8) at the TTO. A give-and-take exchange ensued with the sides tying at 9-9, 10-10 and 14-14 before the African champions, the hosts opened a point's gap (15-16).
The East Africans were refused to playing a catch-up game after the Lionesses recorded a 15-18 advantage then 18-21, 22-22 and 22-24. Kenya's chase ended in a 23-25 loss to level affairs to 1-1.
With a set each in their bags, temperatures went notches higher both in the pitch and the spectating crowd in the third set. Cameroon displayed a slow start but staged a spirited comeback towards the end. Kenya romped to a 6-3 lead but soon the score difference was reduced to two points- 8-6 and 10-8.
The hosts accrued a deficit of four points (16-12) and then six (19-13) and gradually reduced it to 21-16, 22-19 and 22-21. Bitok had to summon his charges to the sidelines to re-strategise and the counsel paid off the girls broke away 23-21 and went on to win 25-21 for a 2-1 set advantage.
Malkia Strikers trailed Cameroon from start to end of the fourth set. They strolled to a 4-6 chase and stagnated at this juncture with their opponents extending their advantage to 4-8. Captained by Mercy Moim, Kenya rallied to reduce the gap to 7-10 and 10-12 but the home-girls ran away to an 11-14 and 12-16 leads.
The non-relenting Malkia Strikers narrowed the gap to 17-19 then 20-22 before getting stuck at 21-24. Trying to avoid the rally set of 15, Kenya's efforts to catch up were not enough as Cameroon ran away with the set 23-25 and equalised set scores to 2-2.
In the decider set, Kenya cruised to a 6-2 and 8-2 advantage and Cameroon's efforts to charge at Malkia Strikers were contained. The hosts resurgence saw them reduce the gap to 9-4, 9-6, but Kenya remained steadfast, leading 12-8, then 13-10 and eventually sealed the victory with a 15-11 set win.