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Powerful Czechs send Kenya packing

The Czechs celebrate winning their pool match against Kenya

Hamamatsu, Japan, November 3, 2010 – The Czech Republic held off feisty Kenya in straight sets (25-20, 25-15, 25-20) on Wednesday to finish a surprising 3-2 in Pool B at the 2010 FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship. The victory for Jiri Siller's team at the Hamamatsu Arena confirmed both the Czechs' safe passage into the second round from Pool B and their winning habit after they had upset Italy in five sets the previous night.

If Kenya, the group's bottom side, appeared to provide easier opposition than the Italians, that was discounting the African team's motivation going into this match: the chance to finally win at world level. Kenya roared like lions early in sets, leading 16-11 in the first and 8-6 in the third. But the Czech Republic's power game was simply too much for the Kenyans' slow rotation to handle, and they rolled off long scoring streaks on their way to comfortable margins.

FIVB Women's World Championship Japan 2010 official page

The Czechs came out lethargic after their defeat of Italy on Tuesday and Kenya jumped on them – and jumped for joy even during points they had not yet won. Mercy Moim's block gave them 9-7 before a service ace made it 16-11. As Hidehiro Irisawa's charges began dreaming of a first-ever victory on this stage, the Czech Republic scored six quick points to move 17-16 in front. Another Moim block stopped the bleeding, but Aneta Havlickova's spikes were too overpowering, giving the Czechs a 20-18 advantage. The European side would win 14 of the last 18 points to take the set 25-20.

The Czech Republic continued to roll in the second period, storming out 6-1, 10-3 and 18-7, until Kenya replied with three points in a row. The Czechs, however, had a big size advantage, with 197cm Kristyna Pastulova dwarfing the 174cm Jane Wairimu 'Wachu' at the net. Czech spikes continued to ring off Kenyan hands en route to a 25-15 success. In the third set Kenya scampered into quick leads of 8-6 and 9-8. But they still could not handle Pastulova's swerving serves, and the Czech Republic registered seven unanswered points. Comfortably ahead, Czech coach Siller brought on substitutes to gain valuable experience for the next round.

Kenya clawed back to 21-15, with the Japanese announcer leading the pro-Kenya cheers as a half-full arena urged Kenya to win at least one set in Hamamatsu. The diminutive and effervescent Wachu raised such hopes with a clever placement into open space as Kenya went on an 8-1 run to trail by two at 21-19. But the mountain proved too high for the valiant Africans: the Czechs prevailing 25-20. The Czech Republic will advance to a second round match on Saturday in Nagoya, while Kenya go home with pride after playing better than expected and winning the hearts of fans.

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