The Kenya national volleyball team on Sunday began their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games campaign with a 0-3 (15-25, 11-25, 23-25) loss after going down at the hands of hosts Japan.
In the win, Japan’s Ai Kurogo and Mayu Ishikawa scored 13 points apiece to lead the hosts to a winningstart in Pool A.
Malkia Strikers will draw positives from the third set where they went toe to toe with Japan as their star player Sharon Chepchumba emerged top scorer with 18 points.
Kenya fielded a familiar first six of Mercy Moim, Leonida Kasaya, Edith Wisa, Jane Wacu, Gladys Ekaru, and Chepchumba with Aggripina Kundu taking charge of the libero duties.
Ishikawa was impressive for Japan as they raced to a 8-6 lead at the first technical timeout, 16-11 at the second before winning the set at 25-15.
Kenya’s Brazilian coach Luizomar De Moura kept faith in his starting six for the second set but there was no stopping the Japanese who led 8-3 at the first technical timeout, 16-9 at the second and comfortably clinched the set at 25-11.
Lorine Chebet replaced Ekaru in the third set and the change sparked Kenya back to life as they pushed Kumi Nakada’s charges all the way.
Japan led 8-6 at the first technical timeout before Kenya cut their lead to only one point at the second interval 16-15. Despite Kenya leading 23-21, individual mistakes from Wacu, Kasaya and Chepchumba gifted Japan the set at 25-23.
It was a meeting between the fifth ranked nation in the world and the 24th ranked side, but despite the scoreline, there was evidence that Kenya was slowly closing in on the rest of the world.
Kenya next play South Korea on Tuesday.