Hamamatsu, Japan, October 30, 2010 – Puerto Rico cruised past Kenya in straight sets (25-20, 25-23, 25-19) to win their first match in Pool B at the 2010 FIVB Women's World Championship at Hamamatsu Arena in Japan on Saturday.
With both teams hungry for their first wins of the opening round, there was a lively opening with plenty of chatter on court in Swahili and Spanish. Kenya came close to winning their first set of the tournament, leading late in the second set before luck turned against them. The awesome top-spin serving of Aurea Cruz and the strength of Karina Ocasio 'Malpica' and others powered Puerto Rico to their first win of Pool B and raised their hopes of advancing to the next round.
FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page
There was little to separate the teams in the first set until the skilful serving and spiking of Cruz put Puerto Rico ahead at 16-14 and then 18-16. Kenya came back but, at 23-20 down, saw the set slip away as a wide spike by Asha Makuto eventually sealed it at 25-20.
Kenya mounted an enthusiastic comeback in the second set. From trailing 10-4 they narrowed the deficit to 16-13. Two net serves by Puerto Rico gave Kenya a couple of free points and they added to their tally with some ferocious spiking and a service ace by Jackline Barasa, which had coach Hidehiro Irisawa jumping for joy. With Kenya moving 21-19 in front, their hopes of an historic first win on the world stage appeared to rise but they were quickly dashed as two blocks were deflected out to give Puerto Rico the set 25-23.
Kenya’a fortunes slumped further in the third set as they fell behind 8-5 and 16-9, unable to match Puerto Rico's front-court brawn of Malpica and Sarai Alvarez. Mercy Moim's dipping service ace narrowed the deficit to 16-13 and sent Kenya celebrating in a circle dance, a crowd-pleasing performance which continued after their attack made it 17-15. The Africans got another break when Cruz missed a blistering serve wide. Jane Wairimu 'Wachu' then made a stunning save off her head, and then a diving dig, but her efforts did not yield a point and it was Puerto Rico who won out 25-19.
Kenya's determined showing earned them admirers among the Japanese spectators and they will be grateful for all the support they can get in their next match against Italy – a contest they enter as heavy underdogs. As for Puerto Rico, next in action against the Czech Republic, they showed they have the power to challenge for a spot in the next round.