Malkia Strikers out of FIVB World Championships

Kenya's Veronica Adhiambo

Kenya's Veronica Adhiambo spikes the ball during their FIVB World Championships Pool A match against Puerto Rico at Gelredome arena in Arnhem, Netherlands on October 01, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Fernando Morales’ charges topped Kenya in attack (46-45), block (11-9), and opponents’ error (36-19). Kenya only outdid them in services where they had 5 compared to Puerto Rico’s single ace.
  • Veronica Adhiambo scored a game-high 22 points (19 kills, one block, two aces) but it was not enough for Kenya to advance. Brittany Abercrombie replied with 20 points (19 kills, one block) for Puerto Rico.

In Arnhem, Netherlands

It was a case of so close yet so far as Kenya’s World championship campaign ended Saturday here at the Gelredome arena after losing 3-1 (15-25, 25-19, 18-25, 20-25) to Puerto Rico in their last Pool A match.

Malkia Strikers needed a win of any kind to advance but fell to Puerto Rico who, following the win, now take their tally to six points and are assured of a fourth place finish in the group. They join hosts Netherlands, leaders Italy and Belgium in the second round.

Fernando Morales’ charges topped Kenya in attack (46-45), blocks (11-9), and opponents’ errors (36-19) while Kenya only outdo them in services where they had five compared to Puerto Rico’s single ace.

Kenya v Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's Ocasio Karina (left) spikes the ball as Kenya's Sharon Chepchumba and Gladys Ekaru block during their FIVB World Championships Pool A match at Gelredome arena in Arnhem, Netherlands on October 01, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Veronica Adhiambo scored a game-high 22 points (19 kills, one block, two aces) but it was not enough for Kenya to advance. Brittany Abercrombie replied for Puerto Rico with 20 points (19 kills, one block).

Kenya coach Luizomar de Moura said a fifth-place finish in the group was a reflection of Kenya’s level at the moment and more work needs to be done to keep the team competitive.

“I am very proud of the team and what they did in this competition. These players were very focused and committed to the plan and sacrificed a lot to be here. It’s not the end of the road, just the beginning for us. We should understand and continue the learning process,” said Luizomar. 

“The level here is very high and it’s good that we now know where we are. We leave the competition with our heads high and it’s up to all stakeholders from FIVB, KVF and NOC-K to ensure this team keeps growing,” added Luizomar noting that their sole win against Cameroon will improve Kenya’s FIVB ranking.

Malkia Strikers

Kenya's Veronica Adhiambo celebrates a point during their FIVB World Championships Pool A match against Puerto Rico at Gelredome arena in Arnhem, Netherlands on October 1, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

His opposite number Fernando Morales said they have achieved their target by sealing a place in the second round and termed the win as a gift to the people of Puerto Rica who are yet to recover from the havoc of Hurricane Fiona.

“This win means a lot for the people of Puerto Rico since we receive a lot of messages of support from them. We are happy that we can give them a little bit of joy after the hurricane. We have fulfilled our mission to qualify for the second round and we have to fight to get at least two wins in the second round,” said Morales.

Luizomar recalled Mercy Moim and Edith Wisa to his first team after resting them against Italy on Thursday yet it was Puerto Rico who had the better start leading 6-2. Ortiz Neria, who scored a game-high four blocks, stopped Sharon Chepchumba’s back row attack to hand her side an eight-point lead at 16-8 before her fellow middle blocker Diana Reyes made it 20-12 with a quick kill through the middle.

Malkia Strikers

Kenya's Mercy Moim celebrates a point during their FIVB World Championships Pool A match against Puerto Rico at Gelredome arena in Arnhem, Netherlands on October 01, 2022.



Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Abercrombie wiped the ball off Veronica Kilabat’s fingers to get the set point after a video challenge and her cross court attack delivered the set at 25-15.

Both sides exchanged leads early in the second set before Adhiambo’s side out helped Kenya pull away 7-4. Puerto Rico however rallied to level the scores at 9-9 thanks to Stephanie Enright’s monster block on Chepchumba.

Setter Valentin Natalia’s tip made it 14-12 in favour of the girls in red but Emmaculate Nekesa changed the tide with twin aces as Kenya led 15-14.

Adhiambo’s kill made it 16-14 and Morales called for a time out.

Yet Kenya went further ahead thanks to Adhiambo’s kill following a brilliant dig by libero Aggripina Kundu.

Kenya libero Aggripina Kundu

Kenya's Aggripina Kundu celebrates a point during their FIVB World Championship Pool A match against Puerto Rico at Gelredome arena in Arnhem, Netherlands on October 01, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Mercy Moim’s monster block on substitute Collazo Genesis saw Malkia Strikers open a five-point gap at 20-15. Then Chepchumba carried Kenya to the set point with a back row attack and Adhiambo’s side out, sealed the set at 25-19.

It was a close affair in the third set as both coaches maintained their first six.

Puerto Rico went ahead 11-9 following two errors in attack from Chepchumba prompting Luizomar to summon Veronica Kilabat and Violet Makuto from the bench.

The pair of Chepchumba and Nekesa returned with the game evenly poised at 12-12.

Ortiz then made another monster block as Puerto Rico took a slim 16-15 lead.

They then went on a six-point rally that was halted by Moim’s side out at 22-16.

Enright got the set point and an attack error from Adhiambo concluded the set at 25-18.

“We knew Kenya has two good hitters (Chepchumba and Adhiambo) so we had to serve well to get them uncomfortable and out of system. We did well apart from the second set but the rest of the sets we put pressure on them with our serves,” Morales opened up on his game plan.

Malkia Strikers

Puerto Rico players celebrate a point during their FIVB World Championships Pool A match against Kenya at Gelredome arena in Arnhem, Netherlands on October 1, 2022.

Photo credit: Samuel Gacharira | Nation Media Group

Kenya looked jaded in the fourth set where they trailed 7-2 and 16-8.

Abercrombie’s kill maintained Puerto Rico’s eight-point advantage at 22-14 before Kenya staged a renaissance of sorts.

“It’s a characteristic of big teams to come back and win two sets, especially how we started the fourth set. It was important because we knew if we went for the fifth set we would be in big trouble,” observed Morales.

Two kills from Adhiambo, a block from Ekaru and Enright’s serve error were all responsible for Kenya’s revival forcing Morales to call a time out at 23-18 to kill their momentum.

Reyes claimed the set point with a back slide attack but two kills from Chepchumba gave Kenya hope with the scores at 24-20. But it was not to be as Adhiambo's jump serve landed outside the court to end their dream of making history in this edition by qualifying for the second round for the first time.

Malkia Strikers return to Kenya on Sunday for the first time in three months.

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