Tokyo — The national women's volleyball team will be on the rise despite their losing streak at the ongoing 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The febrile atmosphere of Ariake Arena - a newly built multi-sport venue located in Ariake, Tokyo, has triggered the talk that "the country can be excited about its future in the sport.
One of the team's best hitters Sharon Chepchumba aka Chumba reveals that she has thoroughly enjoyed the Tokyo experience despite losing to Japan, South Korea and now Serbia in their tough Pool A.
"It's also a steep learning curve when you come to think about the fact that we are also fighting for the same space with the cream world's best. It can never be an overnight thing to go there and start beating the world-beaters," Chumba, one of the best Kenyan talented Opposite Attacker said.
She added, "I am glad though that the team keeps improving day by day, match by match. In 2018 in the World Cup, our ball reception wasn't that good. But this time round we are all flabbergasted by the scores and we can spike up to 21 thereby handing immense pressure to our court adversaries. I mean, it's amazing."
Chumba has nevertheless rued her service in today's match against third ranked side Serbia where they lost in the straight sets of 25-21, 25-11 and 25-20.
"I really tried and even when the Coach insisted on a jump- serve, it turned out to be quite bad. I resorted to a floater which I had not perfected in training. It happens," Chumba stated.
Following the team's dogged campaign in Tokyo, Chumba now wants African teams incorporated into the VNL (FIVB Volleyball League of Nations) ranks saying it will boost talents in Africa to desirable levels.
"And the more they compete in the VNL, the more the small teams can improve and learn to play the game more technically," Chumba added.
She regrets the fact that it's been three years now since Kenya last played the big teams currently at the belated Olympics.
"Our next goal is to qualify for the Paris 2024 Games. We enjoyed the great opportunity of qualifying for the Tokyo Games in the continental Olympic Qualifier, and there's still a long way to go until Paris, but if one thing is for sure it is that we'll do everything in our power to remain formidable, as has been witnessed here in Tokyo."
Setter Joy Lesenaka sounded quite enthusiastic of the team's future prospects: "The team has improved tremendously. We have not made it easy for our opponents unlike in previous events where it was a walk in the park for them. Even when we know we are playing the very best, we have focused and played technically well."
Outside hitter Noel Murambi on her part said: I wish to thank my teammates for displaying great match skills. The three matches that we have played so far have been really tough. Most of the players we are playing against ply their trades in professional VNL competition which we can only dream about for now," Murambi underscored.
She added, "We have played well exposing our knack to the highest level and I think we have a good generation of players, who can easily make the team for at least another Olympic cycle."
Murambi sees a realistic chance of winning the country her maiden set at the summer games in the offing as they keep on coming closer, they next take on the Dominican Republic and Brazil.
"Dominican Republic aren't a new side to Kenya. We have played them in the Grand Prix and World Cup. Maybe if they change their tactics but I don't think so, as they still have the same players like before. Brazil is a big team but we shall also do our level best and see if they can fall. The essence is to push scores from the shrill of the first whistle and thereafter go for the sets."
-Bitok on improvement-
Coach Paul Bitok believes it's an achievement of sorts staying out of the Olympics for 16 years and coming in stronger, resilient and levelheaded.
"Playing the third best team in the world isn't a walk in the park. But I'm appreciative that our scores aren't disappointing. Now that we are out of contention, we will give a chance to young players as we plan for future competitions. But the future is bright at this rate."
Bitok says in finality that Kenya is now a cut above the rest in Africa given the level of match experience in the team.
"We are now going to think at the world. I believe that we are now way above the likes of Cameroon."