Two slots up for grabs at Africa under-23 championship

By ronnie evans
Oct 21, 2016
  • The Kenya under-23 will be gunning for one of the two slots for the world championship to be staged in Slovania. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

There is an added motivation for the teams participating in the upcoming Confederation of Africa women’s under-23 championship.

This is after the International Volleyball Federation announced on Thursday that there will be two slots allocated to African teams in the competition that doubles up as a qualifier for the 2017 World under-23 championship to be held in Slovenia.

It was determined that two teams would qualify on the premise that the number of participating teams in the qualifiers should exceed four teams.

This year’s competition which will be played on October 23-27 sees hosts Kenya battle for honours against fellow continental giants Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal. Rwanda and Botswana complete the lineup.

Kenya Volleyball Federation’s Technical Director David Lung’aho is pleased with the progress of the Kenyan team.

“They are working well as a unit and have improved greatly since they started training. They just need to put a few finishing touches in their game play and formations. I am confident that the team will impress,” he said.

Kenya’s coach Catherine Mabwi has stated that the team is well prepared and identified Egypt as a  serious threat for the title. She intends to use the lengthy frame of Beldine Akinyi to thwart attacks.

Also at her disposal is combative middle blocker and captain Pauline Nafula who plies her trade for Kenya Commercial Bank.

Intensive training at match venue

Rwanda national side has had intensive training for the better part of this week at the Safaricom Indoor Arena in a bid to familiarize themselves with the match venue. The team is coached by Kenyan Paul Bitok who believes that his team has what it takes to succeed.

“Since our arrival, we have had good training sessions and the players are adapting. I think the key to winning is through early preparations and that is what we have been doing. We want to be in the group that qualifies,” he explained.

Bitok’s team played a series of friendly matches against APR and Rwanda Revenue Authority before traveling to Kenya. They also played and lost to a men’s select team on October 12 in a bid to strengthen them physically and mentally.

He had planned to have a series of friendly build-up matches against Kenyan clubs but they reverted to the normal training regimes. He is wary of the threat posed by Kenya and Egypt sides but insists that they would welcome any challenge.

Key to his charges is APR duo of Dimitri Muhimpundu and Delphine Uwicyeza. Both are versatile and offer quality set up for teammates.

Dark horses Botswana arrived on Thursday and the players will be motivated given that the best performers will also get an opportunity to be selected in the senior ranks for team that will take part in the All Africa Games according to captain Caroline Rodger.

Friendly matches in Botswana

The side has been involved in friendly matches in Botswana on top of regular training and coach Isaac Thenjelani is keen on shaking up the pre-tournament pecking order.

“We have trained well for the championship. We have come here to win as the whole nation is behind us. Kenya and Egypt are favourites but any team is beatable,” he stated.

Senegal national team was expected to arrive on Friday whereas the Egyptian side on Saturday early morning.

The draws for the championship is set to take place on Saturday before the competition proper begins the following day.

Kenya squad: Veronica Tanui (Kenya Pipeline), Faith Imodia (St. Paul’s University), Beldine Akinyi (Kenya Pipeline), Damaris Kamaina (Nairobi Water), Ann Lowem (Kenya Prisons), Yvonne Sinaida (Kenya Pipeline), Shyrine Chepkemboi (Kenya Prisons), Pauline Nafula (captain, KCB), Yvonne Wavinya (Kenya Prisons), Edna Mwombe (Kenya Pipeline), Doreen Marani (KCB), Maurine Agwalas (Nairobi Water), Sarah Were (unattached), Celestine Nyongesa (Kenya Pipeline).

Technical bench: Catherine Mabwi (head coach), Josp Barasa (assistant coach), Vernon Khayinga (trainer).