- Kenya finished top of Group B with a 100 percent record
- Malkia are seeking a 10th African crown
- The competition also counts for points towards Olympic qualification
National women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers are will face Nigeria in the quarterfinals of the CAVB African Nations Championship in Yaounde, Cameroon as they continue their quest for a record extending 10th African crown.
Malkia finished top of Pool B after five wins against Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Morocco and Lesotho. They won all the games by straight sets, save for Morocco, where they dropped a single set in as 3-1 win.
The championship had 12 teams pooled into two groups of six with the top four proceeding to the quarter-finals.
With Nigeria finishing fourth in pool A, they present Kenya’s first challenge in the elimination round, a match coach Luizomar de Moura’s charges go into as favourites.
“I am grateful for the team’s commitment despite the challenges we are facing. I am satisfied with the performance so far. They have remained focused and gone on to finish top of the pool,” said the coach.
He further added; “As we face Nigeria in the quarters, we have been collecting their data and have studied their game. We have a strategy that we will share with the team before the match and I think they will respond well like they have in previous matches.”
Fully fit squad
The Brazilian coach is happy to have a fully-fit squad with the return of Sharon Chepchumba who was sidelined at the initial stages of the championship with an ankle injury.
“Having all players available for selection is very important for us as it gives us the depth we need as the competition progresses. We are now able to make changes when needed, so her return was timely,” said Luizomar.
The Brazilian coach is looking to guide Kenya to the African title they last won in 2015 when the competition was hosted in Nairobi. Malkia Strikers have lost the last three finals to arch-rivals Cameroon.
Meanwhile, skipper Mercy Moim has warned the team not to underrate the Nigerians, saying they have shown their qualities and will not be pushovers.
“They are a good team and we have seen like three or four players who are very good. We also saw them during the Club Championship and they are not a side we can underrate,” Moim noted.
Neutralize their best players
She added; “We have to be very keen and ensure we neutralize their best players. We have prepared well and everyone is now focused to try and get a good result for us to porgress to the semi-finals.”
A win for Malkia Strikers in the quarters will pit them against the winner between hosts Cameroon and Morocco in the semis.
In addition to the African title Kenya is also chasing a record-extending fourth appearance at the Olympics, for an African team, and the second back-to-back slot to the global stage since qualifying for the Summer Games in 2000 and 2004.