In Summary
  • It’s Chepchumba's sudden rise that caught the volleyball world by surprise having changed positions from outside hitter to opposite just recently
  • Kasaya is staking a claim for a first team place having returned an impressive 72 points despite her contribution being limited to a substitute's role

  • With the Continental Olympics qualifier set for January 6 to 12 next year in Cameroon, the young blood have limited time to fight for a place in the team

Kenya's performance at last month's FIVB World Cup in Japan gave an indication of potential of youthful players if given a chance to compete at international level.

The excellent performance of youngsters in Japan served a timely reminder to Kenya women volleyball team coaches that they should not shy away from taking risks going forward.

Among the young players who impressed is Sharon Chepchumba who was ranked 24th out of 145 on the top scorers' chart. Leonida Kasaya, Lorine Chebet and Caroline Sirengo also proved their worth every time they stepped on court.

But it’s Chepchumba's sudden rise that caught the volleyball world by surprise having changed positions from outside hitter to opposite just recently.

It's an experiment that started with Shaileen Ramdoo during the Inter Continental Olympics qualifier in Catania, Italy in August and worked perfectly for Paul Bitok in the African Games and World Cup last month.

In Japan, Chepchumba emerged as Kenya's top scorer with 102 points from 94 attacks, four blocks and four serves.

CEMENTED

The opposite position has previously been a preserve for two left handed players, Violet Makuto and Emmaculate Chemtai but if Chepchumba's exploits at the World Cup is anything to go by then the technical bench will look no further. Chepchumba, who is not 21 until October 26, seems to have cemented her place and something will have to give.

“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 during the World Cup.

Part of the reorganisation under both Ramdoo and Bitok has seen Makuto redeployed as a middle blocker to accommodate her talents in attacking and blocking. But it's the upcoming duo of Chebet (20) and Sirengo (21) who provide more viable options beyond Trizah Atuka (27) and Edith Wisa (25) in that position.

While Wisa and Atuka have come of age having contributed 65 and 42 points respectively at the World Cup, Chebet is proving a worthy back-up for the pair as Kenya Pipeline's Gladys Ekaru and Sirengo continue knocking at the door.

FEARLESS KASAYA

Similarly, Kasaya is staking a claim for a first team place having returned an impressive 72 points despite her contribution being limited to a substitute's role.

Unlike Makuto and Wisa - who together they won the African Games title in 2015 - the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) outside hitter has taken long to break into the team.

With time Kasaya has finally come good and provides a different dimension with her fearless attitude, powerful attacks as well as reception.

After playing second fiddle to regulars Mercy Moim (captain) and Noel Murambi (assistant captain), Kasaya looks ripe for a starting role. Her displays at the World Cup and in the Africa Nations Championship in Cairo showed she is ticking the right boxes and that presents a good problem for the technical bench.

Kasaya's development albeit slow should encourage the youthful duo of Pamela Masaisai and Jemimah Siangu who are showing a lot of promise at Prisons Kenya and KCB.

It remains to be seen whether budding Kenya Pipeline setter Esther Mutinda or Veronica Tanui of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) will succeed where Joy Lusenaka has failed - breaking the decade-long trend of Jane Wacu and Janet Wanja in the setting department.

“We have many other setters who are good enough so there is no cause for alarm. They have shown me that they are ready to compete,” offered Ramdoo back in June when Wacu was a big doubt for the Cairo trip.

YOUNG LIBEROS

Time has also come for younger liberos to step up into the team. Celestine Nyongesa has gathered some continental experience at Africa Club Championships with Pipeline while Lincy Jeruto is a valuable addition to a department that has been badly exposed at international assignments.

With the Continental Olympics qualifier set for January 6 to 12 next year in Cameroon, the young blood have limited time to fight for a place in the team but the World Cup clearly showed their inclusion is a worthy gamble. 

"There has to be young players since we are in a transition phase. It’s important that we don’t skip this step since our rivals have done it,” said Ramdoo in June.

Indeed, it's a gamble worth a big tournament like the Olympics.

"I would have liked to have more young players in the team but there was limited time to prepare. We have to start forming a strong foundation with the young players and so far they have been doing well," asserted Bitok before departure to the World Cup.

The last time Kenya participated in Olympics back in 2004, Wanja was only 20. Chebet, Sirengo and Chepchumba were in primary school but time has come for them to lead from the front.

There is no better time to start, it's exactly 90 days to our first Olympic qualifier on January 6. The journey to Tokyo, Japan has began!