What you need to know:
- The competition, which is being co-hosted by the Netherlands and Poland, will be played in six cities across the two countries namely Arnhem, Rotterdam, Apeldoorn (Netherlands), Lodz, Gliwice and Gdańsk (Poland).
In Arnhem, Netherlands
By the time referee Rene Karina blew the final whistle, the gulf in class between these two sides was apparent.
Hosts Netherlands emerged winners after thrashing Kenya in straight sets (25-11, 25-17, 25-11), the performance befitting of the capacity attendance as the home fans painted the Gelredome Arena orange here on Friday night.
The Dutch dominated the encounter in all departments with skipper Anne Buijs leading from the front with a game-high 15 points. The opposite Celeste Plak added another 11 while Daalderop Nika contributed 14 points.
“It’s a good start, we started slowly but once we picked up, we had a good game. We introduced some new players in the second set just to gain experience of playing in this stage. It’s a fairly young team, some players are playing at this level for the first time. It’s good the senior players did well,” observed Netherlands coach Avital Selinger.
Kenya coach Luizomar de Moura will draw positives from the fact that Malkia Strikers top scorer on the day was Edith Wisa who contributed eight points made of five kills and three blocks.
The substitute Veronica Adhiambo also made her inclusion count with a barnstorming performance from the bench that yielded six points. Sharon Chepchumba had five points.
“It’s a good experience against a very talented Dutch side and we are going to use it as part of our learning process. It was important that we expose all our players to such a high level opponent and see how they would respond,” Luizomar told Nation Sport.
Selinger will hope the nature of victory will be a stepping stone to better fortunes in this competition while Luizomar will hope the manner of defeat does not define Kenya’s World Championships campaign.
“I’m happy with the quality of performance. For instance in the first set, we gained points from their mistakes and we blocked better than them. The statistics are really encouraging and you can see the difference was only their attackers who are more experienced at this stage. I’m proud of my players,” said Luizomar in mitigation.
The Brazilian coach had urged his charges to enjoy the contest against the superior hosts and they did just that, racing to a 3-0 lead early in the first set.
But status quo was soon restored as Selinger’s charges recovered thanks to well coordinated attacks from Nika Daalderop and Plak, a whirring menace all night in offence.
Kenya tried to find their way back when they successfully challenged a block touch on Noel Murambi’s attack but the hosts engaged another gear through middle blocker Eline Timmerman and Daalderop who combined well in defence at the net.
A back row attack from Plak delivered the first set at 25-11 and Selinger made no changes for the second set. Once again Kenya started well, leading 2-0 but the tables turned when the hosts opened a four-point lead at 8-4.
Luizomar summoned Violet Makuto and Veronica Kilabat for Emmaculate Nekesa and Sharon Chepchumba to add more numbers in attack but Netherlands pulled further away to lead 15-7 through Buij’s cross court side out.
The introduction of Adhiambo and Belinda Barasa breathed life into the Kenyan side but it was a little too late to impact the result as the Dutch claimed the second set 25-17.
Adhiambo came in for Murambi for the third set while Barasa remained on court in place of Lorine Chebet.
Selinger also introduced new faces for the third set. Dambrink Elles' pipe attack that delivered the set point was the embodiment of depth in the Dutch side. Setter Bongaerts Britt won the set with an ace at 25-11 and the Gelredome arena exploded into song and dance.
“It was great seeing this from the fans. The last time I experienced such an amazing crowd was when I was a player. I hope it can only grow from here,” said the former Dutch international ahead of their next encounter against Cameroon on Sunday.
With such results, the numbers on the stands will certainly keep swelling.