Kenya: Bitok Confident Charges Can Cope Without Atuka

12 December 2019

The unavailability of experienced middle blocker Triza Atuka for the upcoming Africa Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifier could be a blessing in disguise for the national women volleyball team, coach Paul Bitok has said.

Atuka, who is nursing a knee injury picked during the Kapsabet leg of the KVF National League, was a key member of Bitok's first team in the Rabat African Games and World Cup in Japan, where she was Kenya's third best scorer with 42 points.

"It's a big blow because she was in the first six. She did very well when we beat Cameroon (in the African Games and World Cup) and we will surely miss her contribution especially in blocking.

The injury has forced us to try out other options but I'm impressed with what I've seen in training," Bitok told Nation Sport.

Chelagat returns

Part of the reorganisation has seen Bitok call up Kenya Prisons middle blocker Joan Chelagat who is making a return to the national team since 2015.

Chelagat and regular Edith Wisa were among the star performers for Kenya Prisons as they retained the national league title last month.

Then there is the youthful duo of Kenya Pipeline's Gladys Ekaru and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Caroline Sirengo.

"We already have Wisa so we are working on integrating Chelagat into the team since she is more experienced than the other two (Ekaru and Sirengo). This is a high pressure tournament and we also have short time to prepare so we can't throw the youngsters into the deep end. But they will definitely have a role to play in Cameroon," noted Bitok.

"If we can get our blocking right, we will have a very big chance of qualifying. It's a department that we are really putting a lot of emphasis on in training," he added.

Another notable absentee is Lorine Chebet, who is undergoing training at Kenya Prisons Training College.

"Chebet was picking up very well but our hands are tied. Her situation is beyond us so we have to work with who we have," said Bitok.

Malkia Strikers will battle Cameroon, Egypt, Botswana and Mauritius for the sole slot reserved for Africa in the continental qualifiers slated for January 2-10 in Yaounde.

Kenya has featured in the Olympics twice before - in 2000 in Sydney, Australia and in 2004 in Athens, Greece.

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