Kenya women’s volleyball team defied odds to record a historic win against highly ranked Kazakhstan 3-0 (25-23,25-22,25-21) as the FIVB World Championship that served off on Saturday at Hamamatsu indoor Arena in Japan.
Kazakhstan was tipped as the match favourite thanks to the 2017 FIVB ranking that placed them 21 compared to Kenya in position 33.
Malkia Strikers under the tutelage of Japheth Munala and Josp Barasa, are drawn in tricky Pool D. They will now take FIVB’s third placed Serbia on Sunday in their second match.
The East Africans are keen to win two of their pool matches to proceed to the second stage.
Other teams in Pool D are former champions Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Kenyan captain Mercy Moim excelled, scoring a match-high 24 points as Edith Wisa added 10 points for the impressive show.
Sana Anarkulova scored 11 points for Kazakhstan.
The Kenyans displayed energy and teamwork throughout the contest, while Kazakhstan was unable to sustain any rhythm.
Kazakhstan established a 12-6 lead in the first set behind a fierce attack. Kenya dug in and fought back to cut the deficit to 12-9 and Kazakhstan took a timeout.
The tactic did not work, however, as Kenya ran off three more points to equalize at 12-12.
The Kazakhs struggled with blocking and made unforced errors that allowed Kenya to claw back. Christine Psiwa soared for a spike that gave Kenya set point at 24-23, and the Kenyans closed out the set 25-23.
Kenya’s inspired play was bolstered by a strong attack and timely defence. Moim had nine points in the opening set for Kenya.
Kenya picked up where they left off in the second set, moving out to a 5-0 lead before Kazakhstan got on the board. Kenya led 8-4 at the first TTO after a Kazakh serve went into the net. Kazakhstan made a run in the set, coming within a point at 13-12, but after Moim soared for another spike, Kenya was in front 16-13 at the second TTO.
The Kenyans continued to do a good job of finding holes in the Kazakh defence during the set. A crosscourt spike by Emmaculate Chemtai gave Kenya set point at 24-20 and they took the set 25-22 when she came up with a big block.
Kazakhstan began to put up resistance in the third set, taking an 8-5 lead at the first TTO behind some good blocking. But Kenya kept is close and equalized 10-10 on a block by Moim, before pulling ahead 13-12 on a block by Noel Murambi.
Kenya led 16-14 at the second TTO and kept the momentum to win the set 25-21.
In another match, Cameroun came from a set down to see off Mexico 3-1 in pool A.
In an interview, Moim said, “This means a lot. It is our first time to win at a World Championship. We believed in ourselves and our training. Our coaches prepared us well. We played like normal against Kazakhstan and did what we do in practice.”