Kenya: European Clubs Scramble for Malkia Strikers Youngster

Kenya's Sharon Chepchumba (right) spikes the ball during their FIVB World Cup match against Serbia at Hamamatsu Arena in Hamamatsu, Japan on September 16, 2019.
17 September 2019

The national women's volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, is yet to win a match at the ongoing FIVB World Cup in Japan but the general indication is that the future is bright given the performance of upcoming players notably Sharon Chepchumba.

Kenya opened her campaign on Saturday against United States who beat them in straight sets (14-25, 20-25, 14-25) before Netherlands inflicted a similar defeat (12-25, 19-25, 17-25) on Sunday. World Champions Serbia handed Kenya their third consecutive loss (13-25, 11-25, 17-25) on Monday to leave them bottom of the 12-team standings.

Coach Paul Bitok and his charges arrived in Japan fresh from defending their African Games title last month in Morocco but the gulf in quality between Kenya and her opponents has clearly shown at this global tourney. However, it's the decent displays from Malkia Strikers that has caught the attention of the volleyball world.

At the centre of these performances are young players like Lorine Chebet, Edith Wisa and Sharon Chepchumba. The latter has specifically emerged as a revelation with her powerful attacks in what is her maiden appearance at a global competition.

LEADING SCORER

The Kenya Pipeline attacker has carried her form from last month's Inter Continental Olympic qualifiers and African Games to this championship where she is the leading Kenyan scorer with 27 points from three matches, 19.7% of the team's total tally so far.

"Chepchumba is really motivated because we have told her to use this tournament as a platform to sell herself. Already she is attracting a lot of interest from many clubs and this has made the setters to have more confidence in her," Bitok told Nation Sport on Monday.

"She has a lot of power and she is enjoying herself in every game. One club from Turkey is serious about signing her and this is the right direction at this early stage of her career," he added.

POTENTIAL

Chepchumba will not celebrate her 21st birthday until October 26 and Bitok is already tipping her to be among the best players in the world her position in two years' time.

"Her strength is in attack and that's why we changed her from outside hitter to opposite to reduce the pressure on her in terms of reception. She has great potential and this is the right time for her to turn professional. With international exposure, she can be among the top ten opposites in the world," said Bitok.

"I hope her club (Kenya Pipeline) will not stand in her way when the time comes to move because this has been a stumbling block to the development of our players," lamented Bitok.

Kenya next face Brazil on Wednesday in Hamamatsu. The tournament, which has attracted 12 nations, is being played in round robin format.

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