Kenya’s women volleyball team suffered their third straight loss on Sunday at the ongoing World championships, denting their hopes of qualifying for the second round of the tournament.
Kenya lost in straight sets to European champions Italy in their preliminary pool B game at the Hammamatus Arena in Japan.
Even with Italy resting super-setter Eleonora Lo Bianco after their marathon match on Saturday against the Dutch which they won 3-2.
The Italians superior skills and longer volleyball tradition put them on a different level in the first two sets than the Kenyans, who did at times show spark with powerful spiking from their taller players.
Kenya’s great performance in the third set, which they often led until Italy stormed forward from a 15-all tie.
In the first set, Italy moved comfortably ahead 5-1. Kenya showed spark with spikes from the tall Lydia Maiyo and Mercy Moim to go 11-5 and 12-6. But the Italian’s higher skill level prevailed, as Barcellini dipped a service ace to finish the set 25-9.
If Kenya was dreaming of staging an upset by starting the second set at 3-all, Italy quickly woke up and then scored 12 straight points. Gioli’s spike capped a 25-7 set that seemed to last only a few minutes.
Kenya again showed promise by hanging with Italy 5-5 early in the third set and then taking a 7-6 lead after some courageous digs. Captain Brackcides Agala’s spikes made it 8-7 and 9-8 for Kenya.
With the crowd behind them chanting “Ken-ya, Ken-ya,” Moim made a brilliant left fore-arm save, and took a 11-9 lead. With Francesca Piccinini back from injury, Italy tied it at 11. Kenya refused to be blown away, and held to a 15-all tie until Italy’s superior firepower took the set 25-21.
After a one-day break, Italy will play the Czech Republic on Tuesday, and Kenya will face the Netherlands before winding up their pool assignment against the Czech.
Kenya also lost it’s opening games against Brazil and Puerto Rico in straight sets.
The Czech Republic defeated Puerto Rico 25-14, 25-14, 25-17 to give both teams a record of 1-2.
Defending champion Russia improved to three games without a loss with a straight sets victory over winless Canada.
The first round involves four six-team groups and a round-robin schedule. The top four teams in each pool advance to the second round for crossover play. The semifinals and finals will be played in Tokyo on November 13-14.