Gritty Tunisia crush Kenya’s World championship dreams

By elvince joshua
Feb 22, 2021
  • Tunisia's Maissa Lengliz attacks Kenya in the decisive match of World Champs qualifier.

Kenya had it all but wrapped and were hoping to book their ticket with what was regarded as an easy win against Tunisia.

But the North African’s crashed Kenya’s early party with a stinging 3-2 sets win over the hosts at a packed decider at the Safaricom Kasarani indoor gymnasium. Tunisia denied Kenya a sixth straight World Championship appearances with the upset 3-2 (21-25,26-24, 25-15, 26-28, 15-10) win to progress to the 2014 World Championship to be held in Italy in October.

"We came here to complete our target and that is what we did" Tunisia coach Ahmed said.

It was the first loss to Tunisia under coach David Lung’aho who may have underrated his opponent. The players had an easy day out for lunch across town in Nairobi West after a late night out for Jane Wacu and Janet Wanja who were guests at local Television station.

"The match was lost in the first set. All the other sets we struggled. People have to eat, whether at the restaurant or in a hotels doesn't matter,”Lung’aho argued when questioned on whether they misjudged the Tunisians.

This was the first real challenging opposition for Kenya in the three phases of the qualifiers which began in 2013 in Kenya, moved to Uganda before this week’s round of matches.

Kenya had it all working for them a charged crowd backing them but it all fell flat at the end.

The Confederation of Africa Volleyball President, Amr Elwani and Sports Cabinet Secretary, Hassan Wario led fans in observing a minute of silence in honor of the late Diana Chelimo, mother of Kenyan player Mercy Moim who passed away last Thursday.

Lengliz dropped a ball behind Moim and Evelyn Makuto to give Tunisia the first point but her follow up service did not cross the net, helping Kenya to tie scores 1-1.

Tunisia service were begging, with Agrebi Fatma and Marwa Barhoumi both serving out to aid Kenya tie things up three-all before leaping in front 6-5, 7-6 but Tunisia took a 8-7 lead at the first technical timeout. The first set was a seesaw with both teams exchanging leads.

No one wanted the opponent to open a marginal gap ahead. A defiant Tunisia went ahead (12-9) after Moim had misjudged a Barhoumi's service that was well in.

Tunisia were cruising to a comfortable 14-9 lead before points by Makuto and Esther Wangeci for 15-12. The Magrheb state led 16-12 at the second technical timeout.

Tunisia and Kenya were level at 1-1

Jemaii Kaouther was superb on Tunisia's right attack and Kenya found it hard dealing with left spiked balls which gifted the north Africans with the first set 25-21, a shocker for the fans.

Even the introduction of Janet Wanja to reinforce Kenya's service could not help the already tricky situation.

Egypt came in the second set even stronger and Praxcides Agala found it hard receiving the gloat balls from across but Kenya who were trailing 2-3 found some breathing space after Mami Mariem (libero) was pulled out for precautionary measure after she was yellow carded for protesting a referee's decision.

Tunisia again took the lead at first technical timeout (8-7) despite Kenya having gone ahead 5-3, 6-4 as the tensed second set progressed.

Kenya however managed to stage a come back (7-8) to lead 13-9 but Ruth Jepngetich service that went begging and Wangeci's effort out brought the visitors back into the game (13-12, 13-13,14-13,14-14, 15-15 but Ben Hlma Messera served out to hand Kenya slim point advantage at second technical timeout (16-15).

Ineffective Wangeci was pulled out for Violet Makuto whose first contact with the ball brought back some liveliness in the packed gym.

The combination of the Makuto sisters, Evelyn on the left and her younger sister Violet on the right helped Kenya win the second set 26-24.

Tunisia had a player red carded

The Tunisian side again had Kaouther red carded, which gifted Kenya with a free point.

Kenya opened a nine-point lead as teams head to the technical timeout called by Tunisia coach, Messelimani Mohamed, the fans kept the gym a live with the Mexican wave celebration sweeping through the stands.

The third set was crucial for both teams. Tunisia were going out had they lost the set while Kenya needed it to wrap up the game.

Tunisia took an early lead, going 8-4 with Kenya trailing slowly behind 5-9, 6-9, 7-10, 8-13 and (9-16) at the second technical timeout.

Kenya came from 12-19 down to close the gap 18-19 after some improved play from libero, Elizabeth Nafula who had been look warm in the last sets.

Lung'aho changed tact when she pulled out Wanja Wacu. The reigning Africa champions tied things up 20-20 before opening 21-20,22-20,22-21 but Tunisia leveled again 22-22. Tunisia managed to send the match into a decisive set after grabbing the fourth 28-26.

Senegal finished third

Senegal came down from a set down to pin down Uganda in the last match, a result that saw them finish third behind Tunisia.

Senegal beat Uganda 3-1 (19-25,25-18, 25-15, 25-22) Uganda started the match on a strong note with the, 21 year old, Eunice Amuron, a student at Nkunda University troubling the lanky Senegalese side as Uganda led 12-7.

The East African buoyed by the support from Kenyan fans took a 16-10 lead at the second technical timeout. Uganda won the first set 25-19 despite a technical time out call by Amadou Sene, Senegal coach with scores 18-11 in favour of Uganda.

Senegalese number one setter, Name Diop who picked an ankle injury during their game against Kenya followed the proceedings from the stand.

Seychelles' 3-2 (24-26, 25- 22, 23-25,25-18,15-13) win over Mozambique meant they finished the tournament without winning a single match.

Seychelles came from a set down after winning the second and third set .Mozambique came back in the fourth set only for Seychelles to run a way with a 15-13 win in the decisive fifth set.