NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – Ulinzi Sharks women’s handball team coach Victor Ochieng insists another league title is not cast in stone for league leaders Nairobi Water despite the defending champions’ unbeaten streak.
With nine rounds of matches already played, the record national champions lead the log with 16 points but Ochieng insists it is too early to bet on their opponents bagging another title this season.
“No, I don’t think that is the case…they are not the runaway national league leaders. The last time we met they beat us but that is because I had not analyzed them well enough to identify their weak points. That is what I am doing right now so that when we next meet, we will get one over them. It is still too early in the season and we still have to meet them in the second leg… so, a lot could happen,” Ochieng said.
The teams clashed last weekend in a top-of-the-table tie at Nyayo Stadium during which the ‘Water Queens’ excelled 31-27.
The soldiers bounced back impressively on Saturday, outclassing fellow title challengers, National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), 29-25 in an afternoon tie at Nyayo Stadium.
Ochieng admitted he had gathered as much information as possible on their opponents and had devised a strategy to ensure victory.
“Unlike Nairobi Water, I had extensively studied today’s opponents and had come up with an appropriate strategy. I have observed their last three matches and knew there were weak points we could exploit. The attacked worked well in unison and we also managed to erase the defensive mistakes that cost us in our last game,” the tactician said.
Sharks’ painful bite
Euphrasia Mukasia topped the scoring charts for the soldiers with 10 goals with Sarah Wasike following closely with six goals.
Joan Akinyi was the hero for NCPB with nine goals as Jacinta Leli, Addah Musilibi and Sheryl Atieno each contributed four goals.
Despite the attacking brilliance, Ochieng also paid homage to his goalkeeper.
He added: “She (Jully Mutwoi) was truly exceptional…she practically saved us in crucial moments in the game. The substitute keeper also did well when she came on and I am proud of both of them.”
His opposite in the dugout, Danstan Eshitumo, admitted his charges failed to capitalize on their chances and ultimately paid the price.
“It was a good game by both sides and quite enjoyable. However, we did not take our chances whenever we had them and this cost us. All in all, we gave a good account of ourselves…the girls tried to apply everything they had learned in attack to perfection,” he said.
Going into the match, NCPB were lying second with 12 points – two ahead of Sharks and four behind leader Nairobi Water.
Both teams are tied on 12 points although the Sharks have only played eight matches – one less than their rivals.
Title hopes to remain
The latest setback notwithstanding, Eshitumo concurs with Ochieng it is too early to throw in the towel for the title race.
“There is still a long way to go because we are not even through with the first leg. The league is still very open. Today, I noticed some defensive loopholes, which we need to work on before our next match. Hopefully once we work on these weaknesses, our performances will massively improve.
In earlier matches of the day at the same venue, Winnie Cherop top-scored with 14 goals to lead Nairobi County Council (NCC) to a 32-14 thrashing of New Hope.
Florence Sangwa was the standout player for the losers, hitting the back of the net 10 times.
Kenyatta University pipped Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) 24-23 in a ‘students’ derby’.
Celyne Wabuke, Claire Wanyonyi and Vivian Owano led the scoring charts for the victors with six goals apiece as Catherine Ketapo amassed eight goals for the losing team.
It was heartbreak for the KU men’s team, however, as they went down 34-32 to Buccaneers in an evening tie.