August 7, 2004 - KENYA national women volleyball team returned back to their homelands after a successful training session in Cuba in their preparation to represent Africa at 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. They left Kenya to Greece early this week.
This will be the second time for the Kenyan ladies to carry Africa’s flag at the Olympic Games having made their maiden appearance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
The road to Athens 2004 has been long and winding with a lot of changes having taken place in the team notably the replacement of veteran volleyball coach Gilbert Ohanya who has been at the helm for over 20 years serving volleyball as a coach at both club level and national team level. Ohanya’s long serving deputy at national team Paul Gitau has also been replaced.
The new technical bench which Kenya Volleyball Federation has assigned the task of taking Africa’s representatives to Athens has Abdul Muge as head coach and David Lung’aho as his assistant. Both are former international players and holders of FIVB Level II coaching certificates.
Apart from changes on the national team’s technical bench ahead of Olympic Games in Athens, the playing unit has also affected with changes since after Sydney key players left for studies in the United States of America. Leading the US exodus was Roselidah Obunaga, Gladys Nasikanda, Phelister Chebet, Hellen Elele, Ednah Chepng’eno and Jackline Makokha.
The bulk of the Kenyan national women volleyball team which will represent Africa at the Olympic Games in Athens are drawn mainly from Kenya Pipeline and Telkom Kenya which are the two leading local clubs which have been very consistent in club tournaments on the continent.
During All Africa Games held in Abuja, Nigeria in August 2003, the Kenyan ladies surrendered All Africa Games title when they failed to reach the finals but that seemed not to have dented their spirits after Kenya Volleyball Federation ( KVF ) went back to the drawing board to take stock of what could have gone wrong in Nigeria considering the fact that Olympic Games was just one year away and Kenya want to be in Athens to represent Africa once again.
After Abuja, the Kenya national women volleyball team put behind their failures and rose to the occasion emerging winners during qualifying matches for 2004 Athens Olympic Games which were held in Nairobi at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani last year.
The national team received a major boost when Kenya Pipeline won the African Club Championships in Dakar, Senegal April 2004 by beating Algeria’s Bejaia 3-0 (25-15, 25-11, 26-14) sets in the finals with national team regulars Mercy Wesitula, Leonidas Kamende, Abigael Tarus and Judith Serenge who are in the final team which will represent Africa at the Olympic Games in Athens successfully leading their campaign.
Kenya’s preparations for Athens Olympic Games got under way in May when a provisional squad of 21 players was called for training at Kasarani with five US based internationals Roselidah Obunagah, Jackline Makokha, Philister Chebet, Gladys Nasikanda and Philister Chebet called to the team. Violet Baraza who plays as a professional in Greece and Dorcas Ndasaba who is a Turkey based professional player was also called to the provisional squad.
Local based players who were called to the provisional squad were- Judith Serenge, Rodah Liyali, Catherine Wanjiru, Esther Chepkosgei, Leonidas Kamende, Lucy Chege, Abigael Tarus, Mercy Wesitula, Nancy Nyongesa, Rose Eupa, Janet Wanja, Mildred Odwako, Margaret Mukoya, Nancy Lusanji, and Monica Simiyu. Abdul Muge and David Lung’aho were named as coaches, Grace Minja Team Manager, Sammy Kirongo Trainer and Sammy Mulinge Statician.
Once the squad was named, KVF embarked on preparing the team for a Four Nations Tournament in Rwanda bringing together Uganda, DRC Congo and the hosts Rwanda. The Kenyan ladies emerged the winners after beating all their opponents with identical 3-0.
After putting the team in training at Kasarani, KVF secured gym training for the team at Kenyatta University and after assessing the performance of individual players during training and local friendly matches, the coaches named the final squad that will represent Africa at Olympic Games in Athens. The team selected for Olympic Games has Dorcas Ndasaba, Catherine Wanjiru, Nancy Nyongesa, Philister Jebet (left attackers), Leonidas Kamende, Roselidah Obuna gah, Gladys Nasikanda (center), Violet Baraza, Abigael Tarus (right attackers), Judy Serenge, Janet Wanja (setters), Mercy Wesitula (libero).
After naming the final Olympic Games squad, KVF arranged for the team to train in Havana, Cuba where they traveled on July 14. During their training in Cuba they played two matches against junior sides winning the first match 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-22) and the second match 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-21). They went down to Cuba Combined in their third and last match 2-3 (25-21, 19-25, 20-25, 25-20, 12-15). Cuba Combined team was comprised of players who were dropped from the Cuban national team. The Kenyan ladies returned back home on Wednesday 28th July, 2004.
With preparations for the Athens Olympic Games taking the home stretch, the players and coaches interview have only one ambition in Athens- to beat hosts Greece in their first match that will be the opening match of this year’s Olympic Games. In 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Kenya Put up a brave fight before narrowly losing to the hosts Australia 2-3.
By JACK KWEMBA, Press Officer-Kenya Volleyball Federation)