What you need to know:
- The 16 teams will be divided into two groups of eight each with the top four teams in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.
- Group E will be based in Rotterdam and while Group F will be played in Lodz.
In Arnhem, Netherlands
Malkia Strikers on Sunday returned to the country for the first time in three months after the World Championship campaign ended here on Saturday following a 3-1 loss to Puerto Rico in their last Pool A match.
Kenya finished fifth in their group to miss out on a top four place that would have assured them of a spot in the second round for the first time in history.
European champions Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Puerto Rico qualified for the second round from Pool A.
Kenya’s only win came against their rivals Cameroon who finished bottom without a point. Despite missing out on their second round target, coach Luziomar de Moura noted that Kenya has to compete against high level teams consistently to perform well at the global stage.
“The win against Cameroon was important for our ranking which will give this team an opportunity to compete at such high-level competitions in future,” said Luizomar, perhaps hinting at Kenya representing Africa at the Challenger Cup which is the qualifying tournament for the lucrative Volleyball Nations League.
The Brazilian coach was further impressed by the performance of young players such as Veronica Adhiambo, Emmaculate Nekesa and Belinda Barasa who were playing at the World Championships for the first time.
Adhiambo finished as Kenya’s second best top scorer with 50 points (41 kills, four blocks, five aces), 16 behind Sharon Chepchumba who returned 66 points made of 64 kills and two blocks.
“There are only positive things we can take from this competition. Having these young players doing so well makes us believe that this team has a bright future. It is really important for the young ones to continue working hard.
“I urge coach Paul (Bitok) and (Japheth) Munala to continue the work back in Kenya. I am always open to sharing my experience with local coaches so that they can continue the work we started. That will make players be in better conditions and achieve higher levels faster,” said Luizomar.
Bitok, who accompanied the team in Brazil for the two-month high performance training camp, said they return home with invaluable experience that they will be sharing with local coaches and clubs.
“Malkia Strikers have sacrificed a lot. We have been away from our families for months, working so hard to achieve better results for our beloved country. We may not have met our target as we aspired but we learned a lot during this process and we hope to continue until we achieve our goals.
“Apart from competition and training sessions in Brazil, we visited many sports academies, sporting club complexes and few clubs in Serbia where we met sports legends and current stars.
We have been inspired from this experience and we’ll be sharing the experience we have gained with management, coaches, players and the younger generation. We would like to inspire others from what we experienced during our journey in this competition.”
Bitok hinted at a few players landing professional deals after they impressed scouts at the World Championship.
“I'm sure few of our players will become professional players in the near future and one day they will lift the Kenya team to another level,” he said without revealing the names of these players.
All 16 teams that have qualified for the second round take a rest on Monday to recharge their batteries ahead of the next phase which begins on Tuesday in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Lodz, Poland.
The 16 teams will be divided into two groups of eight each with the top four teams in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Group E will be based in Rotterdam and while Group F will be played in Lodz.
Second round teams
Pool A: Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Puerto Rico
Pool B: Turkey, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Poland
Pool C: Serbia, United States, Canada, Germany
Pool D: China, Brazil, Japan, Argentina