What you need to know:
- The Brazilian coach has been clear from the onset that Malkia Strikers’ route to the second round is by beating Cameroon and Puerto Rico.
- After tinkering with his line up in the first two matches, he is confident that he has finally gotten the right combination to deliver the first win in this competition.
In Arnhem, Netherlands
It’s amazing how fast life can change.
Last year at a time like this, Kenya began rebuilding after veteran setter Jane Wacu announced her untimely retirement from the national team.
It was a dramatic end to 15 years of stability in that department courtesy of Wacu and her predecessor, Janet Wanja.
Thrown into a limbo, Kenya coach Paul Bitok elected to field two inexperienced setters, Joy Lusenaka and Esther Mutinda, at the 2021 Africa Nations Championships in Rwanda where Cameroon beat them 3-1 in the final to claim their third consecutive title.
The only positive from that loss for Kenya was that Wacu’s heir apparent had finally been discovered. Step forward Esther Mutinda.
However, there was a problem as she soon went into maternity leave and so did Lusenaka. The joy in the Kenyan camp quickly evaporated and turned into renewed agony.
Fast forward to September this year, Kenya has finally found Wacu’s replacement, Emmaculate Nekesa, after the teenager’s break-out performance at the Africa Club Championships with eventual champions KCB convinced selectors that she was ripe for the national team job.
However, their rivals Cameroon are knee deep in a rebuilding process following the retirement of three key players Stephanie Fotso, Chrsitelle Nana and Laetitia Moma.
The absence of the trio has left coach Jean Rene Akono with three experienced players namely Yolande Amana, Estelle Adiana, Emelda Piata and new captain Simone Bikatal.
However, he has worn a brave face throughout the rebuilding process and will certainly be looking forward to receiving the stamp of approval Tuesday night here at the Gelredome arena in Arnhem with victory over perennial rivals Kenya in their third Pool ‘A’ match of the ongoing FIVB World Championships.
Both sides are without a point after two consecutive 3-0 losses. Kenya have lost to the Netherlands and Belgium, while Cameroon have gone down to Italy and the hosts.
The Indomitable Lionesses will however be buoyed by the performance of Bikatal and Adiana, who top scored for Cameroon against Italy and Netherlands respectively.
Adiana, a natural outside hitter, replaced Blamdai Carine in the first set of the Netherlands game on Sunday and recorded an impressive 12 points (10 kills and 2 aces) to emerge top scorer.
Akono will hope that Adiana will carry that form into the Kenya match and offer a permanent solution to the opposite position that has proved tough to fill following the retirement of Nana and Moma.
In retrospect, the opposite position is one of Kenya’s key strengths thanks to the reliable Sharon Chepchumba.
Kenya coach Luizomar de Moura was a picture of joy on Sunday after the KCB attacker hit double digits for the first time in this competition.
She returned 13 points (13 kills) against Belgium which was a big improvement from her seven-point performance (6 kills, 1 block) in the opening game against Netherlands.
“Sharon Chepchumba is a great player for this team and today she had a better performance than the previous match. She got double digits and it’s important for her development that she faces high level opponents.
She is the best in Africa and has the desire and passion to keep getting better and be among the best in the world,” said Luizomar.
The Brazilian coach has been clear from the onset that Malkia Strikers’ route to the second round is by beating Cameroon and Puerto Rico.
After tinkering with his line up in the first two matches, he is confident that he has finally gotten the right combination to deliver the first win in this competition.
“It’s time to find the players that are in better shape to give us the win. We are going to make the analysis of these two matches from the statistics and prepare to field the best team for the next match based on this,” said Luizomar.
Meanwhile, European champions Italy will take on Belgium in another Pool ‘A’ match at the same venue.
Expected Line ups
Mercy Moim, Noel Murambi, Lorine Chebet, Edith Wisa, Emmaculate Nekesa, Sharon Chepchumba, Aggripina Kundu (libero)
Simone Bikatal, Brandy Gatcheu, Olomo Arielle, Emelda Piata, Yolande Amana, Estelle Adiana, Reine Ngameni (libero)
Pool ‘A’ fixtures (all Kenyan time)
Italy v Belgium (7pm, Gelredome arena)
Kenya v Cameroon (9pm, Gelredome arena)