A majority of Kenya's players for the World Championship team will be drawn from the Pipeline and KCB teams, pictured here
Buoyed by their good performance at the recent African Club Cup in Mauritius, Kenyans girls will be going for nothing short of a semi final place at the World Championships to be staged in Japan in November.
Kenyan clubs have won the African women’s title a record 18 times since 1985 and now feel it was time to make an impression on the world stage. The national team has won the African title six times since 1980.
The team has represented Africa in three World Cups, and five World Championships. It has also played in the last two Olympic Games.
Victory in Mauritius went to surprise package, Kenya Commercial Bank who silenced Egypt’s Al Ahly 3-2 (15-25, 28-26, 25-13, 9-25, 17-15) in a two-hour thriller at the Pandit Sahadeo Hall in Vacoasin.
Kenya Pipeline, who had traveled to Mauritius as defending champions finished third overall after losing to KCB in the semi finals and beating Mafolofolo of Botswana 25-10, 25-7, 25-10 in the play-off.
"By finishing first and third, we have affirmed our position as Africa’s leading women’s volleyball playing nation," said newly elected Kenya Volleyball Federation secretary general, Dan Wanyama.
"This gives us a reason to aim for a better performance in Japan," he added in reference to the World Championships.
"There is no doubt a majority of the national team players will be drawn from Pipeline and KCB, and with the experience gained from Botswana, we shall be going for a beyond-first-round performance in Japan," added Wanyama.
Pipeline’s Catherine Wanjiru was voted the best spiker in Mauritius with KCB’s Jackline Barasa taking the Best Blocker’s honours. Best Receiver was Mercy Wesutila of KCB.
KCB head coach, Paul Bitok was happy with his girls’ achievements. "I am happy in my first assignment with the club a year ago we finished third. A year down the line we are champions," he said as the team returned to a heroines’ welcome to Nairobi from Mauritius.
"Going by the teams in Mauritius, I had hoped to only defend our third position. But when we beat Pipeline in the semis, I knew would clinch it," he added.
Kenya Pipeline coach, David Lung’aho said he had invested in much younger players and looked forward to a great future with them. Pipeline are expected back home this Friday.
In the World Championships, Kenya is in Group A alongside Korea, Poland, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Costa Rica.
According to the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) women’s rankings, Kenya is placed 12 and better than Chinese Taipei (23) and Costa Rica (33).
"On paper, we should be able to beat the two and make it to the second round," said Wanyama, himself a former player.
"A win at this level should help us reach the top-ten category," he added.
"It is a long shot but we have to defend our ranking. Which means should aim to finish within the top ten ranking in the championships," said Wanyama who is determined to take Kenyan volleyball places.
Kenya has also qualified for next year’s World Cup also in Japan and looks forward to clinching a place in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
The Kenya Volleyball Federation has come up with a comprehensive training programme for the team ahead of the World Champions.
"We need to train the girls well, both at home and abroad if we have to achieve our targets," said Wanyama, a Nairobi banker.
Home training includes a proposed four-nation tournament in Nairobi in July involving Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria.
Kenya also hopes to have build-up matches in Cuba or Turkey in August apart from holding a training camp in Japan a couple of weeks to the World Championships.
"It is an expensive affair but we are determined to raise funds for it,’ said Wanyama.
Wanyama said they have a Sh 15 million (US$ 200,000) budget for the exercise. He thanks FIVB through President Ruben Acosta for undertaking to pay for Kenya’s airfares to Japan and accommodation while there.
"It is a gesture that we must reciprocate through playing well in Japan," added Wanyama.
Other African teams in the World Championships are Cameroon and Egypt. The men’s teams are Tunisia and Egypt.