Nemo Stars, Ndejje arise as new powerhouses in enthralling year
Posted Sunday, January 6 2013 at 02:00
Gone are the days of the elite volleyball clubs winning the league and other tournaments without investing time in training and nurturing talent.
Nemo Stars and Ndejje University put a lot of time in preparing ahead of the 2012 season and yielded big.
Much as many keen followers of the sport were caught off guard by their triumph, the two sides’ new success was just around the corner.
Both teams won the Ndejje, Makerere and Nkumba University Open tournaments. “It was a very competitive season better than 2011,” said Godwin Ssennyondo, Uganda Volleyball Federation (UVF) technical director, while summing up the enthralling season.
For Nemo, the secret was all about making good use of their pre-season after a disappointing 2011. They went through the regular season unbeaten, something KAVC did in 2010 and eventually won the league. Nemo never fancied having a libero in their roster. Mostly, Nemo thrived on their reception and court cover. That way, Nemo had more attack options on and off the net.
With a libero, one reduced the back line attack, and when the setter is also on the back line it meant Nemo would have only one back line attacker.
For some reason, the tactic worked well for them as they would attack from all angles. Being poor at blocking didn’t stop Nemo from imposing themselves on opponents as George Aporu, Louis Mubangizi and Tom Amou always stopped worrying so much about balls that went through their block.
The trio together with Hussein Gharelnabi and Anthony Olevko tuned Nemo’s attack variation. Nemo’s success cannot be analysed without Smith Okumu, who was the team’s most valuable player, according to coach Anthony Ndawula. “It has to be him. (Okumu) is the youngest and least experienced on the team. He took most of the stick from me and was outstanding especially in the final,” Ndawula said after they beat Nkumba 3-1 in the best-of-five playoff finals. It was no surprise that Okumu won the best setter and best server awards at UVF’s crowning night.
Apart from winning the league for the first time, Ndejje did a double by winning the National Championship. The core composition of Ndejje’s rise to the summit of the National League and National Championship epitome was credited to Peace Busingye, Christine Alupo and Jessica Kaidu.
When the trio came to the party, Ndejje shined. “The women’s league was more competitive than the men’s league,” Ssennyondo opined. All the top six teams had a chance of making the playoffs with two rounds to play. In the process, 2011 women league champions Nkumba University finished fifth and failed to make the playoffs as Ndejje, KCCA, UCU Doves and KAVC reached the semifinals.
Almost a third of Ndejje’s team had been together for almost five years or so. Ndejje went ahead and won the semis 3-1 at the expensive of UCU Doves before white washing KAVC 3-0 in the one-sided finals.
Uganda continued with their dominance regionally as Dickens Otim and Ambrose Okello hogged more than a slice of history by winning a third consecutive men’s title for Uganda at the seventh Club International Beach Volleyball Tournament at Lido.
The pair was coming off a disappointing regular season that saw them surrender the league title to eventual winners Nemo Stars.
Unlike previous editions when the Ugandan pair eased past their opponents, they treaded a tight rope this time round and only emerged victorious after a shaky start against Burundians Briand Mugabowingabo and Yvan Dukudane.
In the women’s category, Uganda had four pairs in the semi finals but it was Vivienne Aketch and Sharon Pajije who made it to the final hurdle. Pajije and Aketch emerged winners of the final rubber with a hard fought 14-21, 21-18, 15-13 (2-1) win over experienced Alice Okecho Gitta and Sophie Nuwagaba.
Uganda entered one of its longest serving pair of coaches Anthony Ndawula and Tom Mpuuja for FIVB Level III Course in Chennai-India.
The pair has coached the national teams for a long time and currently Ndawula coaches Nemo Stars while Mpuuja is still with army side UPDF.
With the transfer window opening soon, many teams will hit the market as they try to emulate what Nemo Stars and Ndejje did in 2012. The New Year starts proper for volleyball with an elective assembly during which incumbent president Sadiq Nasiwu will face off with Eddie Okila for the top job. News of Uganda’s return to the international scene this season already augurs well for the game.