Beach volleyball wrap up eventful KVF year
Kenya Volleyball Federation’s (KVF) year came to a close on a good note as the men’s beach volleyball national team qualified for the next round of the Olympic qualifiers after beating hosts Uganda 2-0 in their last match of the zonal qualifiers at the Lido Beach in Entebbe, Uganda.
Youngster Brian Meli and Cornelius Kiplagat constituted one pair while experienced pair of Ibrahim Oduor and James Mwaniki made the other team. Kenya finished second behind, much improved Tanzania to book a slot in the next round.
Team coach Sammy Mulinge was full of praise for General Service Unit’s (GSU) setter, Meli, who was making his debut in beach volleyball.
The tactician is of the opinion that with an elaborate elite youth programme, the future of beach volleyball is secure.
Oduor and Mwaniki, who have been regulars in the team, qualified for the third round of the Rio 2016 Olympics qualifiers that were held in Tunisia but failed to travel due to financial constraints.
The two also came in fifth in this year’s Africa beach volleyball games in Cape Verde.
The future of the sport could highly be pegged around Meli,said Enock Omogeni of Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), who was in the provisional squad but did not make the travelling squad.
Others include Strathmore University duo of Mathias Kemboi and Wilfred Kimutia who were impressive in the local beach volleyball league in the year 2019, amongst others.
In the women’s category, experienced pair of Gaudencia Makokha and Naomi Too won Bronze at the June beach games in Cape Verde.
Two months later, the duo handed Kenya her first medal at the 12th edition of African Games in Rabat, Morocco after settling for silver. They lost 2-0 to Egypt in the women’s beach volleyball.
The women’s team, who have been in training in Mombasa, start their Olympics campaign with a Round One qualifier set for January 8 to13 in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
Makokha is likely to miss her long-term partner Too as she picked a knee injury during the 2019 national league playoffs at Kasarani.
The league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Brackcides Agala was drafted in the provisional squad and will be making her debut at the beach version of the sport.
Known for her good reception which is a key element in beach volleyball, it will be interesting to see who Agala pairs in the qualifiers and how she fairs on her debut.
The Wardresses was impressive as her side, Kenya Prisons, retained their women’s league trophy, warding off stiff competition from Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB). Also up for selection are Prisons’ Loise Tarus and Yvonne Wavinya as well as KCB’s pair of Phoscah Kasisi and Metrine Nabwile.
Meanwhile, Malkia Strikers continued to play second fiddle to established teams at the world stage. At the continental level, the side blew hot and cold against new found nemesis Cameroon, beating them to retain their Africa Games trophy.
They had, however, fallen to the same side 3-2 at the Africa Cup of Nations final. The team competed a busy season with one win, against Cameroon, in the 12-team World Cup in Japan.
New starts in the likes of Sharon Chepchumba and Gladys Ekaru were ‘born’ assuring continuity at the team.
The team will be back to training at Kasarani Indoor Arena on December 27 as preparations for the Olympics qualifier set to jump off on January 2 continue.
The team will be without the services of two key players in Pipeline’s Triza Atuka and her teammate Janet Wanja. The former is nursing a knee injury while Wanja failed to report for camp sighting personal commitments.
Their male counterparts had a quiet year that saw them take part in the Zone Five Africa Games qualifiers in June, won by a second string Egypt team.
In the local scene, both GSU and Kenya Prisons retained their league title. KPA finally broke the third place jinx to finish second in the men’s league and qualifying for an inaugural appearance in the continental club championship.
As Japheth Munula, successfully created a third force in the women’s league in the form of KCB, record time champions Kenya Pipeline’s star was dimmed by injuries.
The Margret Indhakhala coached side missed the services of Atuka, Yvonne Sinaida and Christine Siwa while Too was ruled out after injuring her knee in the second set of the team’s playoff opening match.
As the new season throws off, it remains to be seen if Paul Bitok’s proposal to have the league played on a home and away format in indoor arenas will be welcome.
According to Bitok, the league should run between October and May the following year, with the period between May and June specifically left for international assignments and beach volleyball.