National women’s volleyball team Malkia Strikers, on Tuesday, warmed up for the CAVB African Nations Championship with a friendly match against Rwanda.
Coach Luizomar de Moura’s charges faced off with fellow East Africans Rwanda winning 3-0 (25-14, 27-25, 25-14) in a match they largely dominated apart from the second set.
The Brazilian tactician had trusted skipper Mercy Moim to lead hard-hitting duo of Sharon Chepchumba and Veronica Adhiambo, Edith Wisah, Belinda Barasa and setter Emmaculate Nekesa to start, a line-up that he has stuck with in most of the matches he has taken charge this summer.
Rwa were no match for the Mozzart Bet-sponsored top-ranked African side, going down 25-14 in the first set.
Kenya was, however, dealt a blow in the second set when 2022 Africa’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in club championships, Chepchumba was taken off with an injury scare, having twisted her foot awkwardly.
With youngster Loice Simiyu stepping up to fill Chepchumba’s place, the Rwandese took advantage of Malkia Strikers’ setback, as the worry of their teammate being sidelined with a serious injury was evident in their eyes, to run the scores and go nine points ahead.
Moura also made two more changes, bringing in Africa Club Championships best blocker Trizah Atuka and teammate Leonida Kasaya. Kenya ate into Rwanda’s lead one point after another as they went on to reclaim the lead and win 27-25.
In the third set, Lorine Chebet was also introduced albeit sparingly, leaving only three players out of action in Malkia’s final friendly match, and the only one in Cameroon, even as the team won the set 25-14 for a straight-sets victory.
“From Morocco all the way to Yaounde, preparations have been good. From today’s friendly, I am confident that the squad is ready and this win gives us confidence,” assistant coach Paul Bitok offered after the match.
The team, is set to learn its opponents in the group stage tonight during a 12-team draw slated for 7pm EAT. As anticipation grows, Bitok says hosts Cameroon and Egypt, who are returning to the competition this year, pose the biggest threat to Malkia’s claim to the African throne.
“We are likely to land Egypt in the group stage, as Cameroon are in a different pool but both teams are very strong and we have to be intentional in how we play them.
“With Chepchumba likely to miss the opening fixture and maybe action for three days we are hoping not to go up against any big challenges in her absence.
“We have, however, been preparing for such an eventuality as this is part of sports and I am impressed with how Simiyu performed after settling in. We also have several other players who can switch positions if need be able to adjust,” Bitok explained after the team’s friendly.