Regular winners deliver again but KPA gatecrash men's party
- However it’s Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) who produced the biggest upset of the tournament to finish second in the men’s competition
- It was the introduction of opposite Enock Mogeni, a fourth year Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) student at Strathmore University, which proved the difference
- Ontere believes they can end the poor showing from Kenyan teams at the Club Championships if they retain a bulk of players in the current team
Kenya Volleyball Federation National League play-offs ended on Sunday with General Service Unit (GSU) and Kenya Prisons retaining the men’s and women’s titles respectively after picking maximum points.
While Kenya Prisons won their seventh title without dropping a set, GSU dropped only one set en route to their record-extending 14th title.
Both teams started the three-day play-offs as favourites and it was widely expected they would retain their titles.
However it’s Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) who produced the biggest upset of the tournament to finish second in the men’s competition and book a slot to next year’s Africa Club Championships in Cairo, Egypt.
In the last decade, GSU and Kenya Prisons have been Kenya’s representatives at the continental tourney. But the dockers, coached by Sammy Mulinge and Samson Sunguti, defied odds to post identical 3-1 wins over Kenya Prisons and Kenya Defence Forces before losing to GSU in straight sets on Sunday.
Placed second on the table at the end of the regular season, the Mombasa-based side arrived at Kasarani with a spring in their step and caused the first major upset on Friday by seeing off David Lungaho’s Prisons 3-1.
It was the introduction of opposite Enock Mogeni, a fourth year Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) student at Strathmore University, which proved the difference.
Replacing the experienced James Ontere, Mogeni had his work cut out. And he delivered! A series of back-row and front-row attacks from the 22-year-old secured the third set.
He remained on court to seal the win that put KPA on course for a slot at the continental event for the first time since their formation.
It certainly didn’t come as a surprise when Mogeni was named the tournament’s best attacker. But Mogeni was not the only outstanding player for the dockers. David Thuita — who won the best receiver award — was flawless in reception, floor defence, blocks and attack.
Elijah Bosire, the best server of the competition, was the brain behind KPA’s display orchestrating creative moves in every rally.
Then there is another youngster Dennis Omollo, who, despite making his debut at this stage restricted the experienced James Mwaniki to the bench. For a team that only trained together for three days before the play-offs and one which assembles only on match days during the regular season KPA outdid themselves.
“The boys have done very well and we are proud of them. Our appeal goes to the management to support this team because it has the potential of winning the league. We caused GSU a lot of problems and they only beat us because they train together for the whole year. With similar support, we can equally dominate the league,” said KPA team manager Joel Kosgei.
Ontere, who has had professional stints in Japan and Bulgaria, believes they can end the poor showing from Kenyan teams at the Club Championships if they retain a bulk of players in the current team.
“Most of the players are already being courted by other clubs and it’s difficult to convince them to stay because they get lucrative offers like permanent jobs. We have worked hard to build this team over the last five years and it will be so painful to lose our best players to our rivals," offered Ontere, a long-serving member of the team. "I'm appealing to the management to find a way of retaining them even if it’s employing them on contract for starters. If we retain this team and make a few additions we will certainly do well in Cairo."
In the women’s category, third-placed Kenya Pipeline will join champions Prisons and runners-up Kenya Commercial Bank at the 2020 Club Championships by virtue of finishing third in this year’s continental tourney. Debutants DCI finished fourth without a win.