KAMPALA. Sport is like gambling. Unfortunately both parties cannot win. Someone has got to ‘cry’ while their rivals bask in glory. Finals are such heartbreakers. If they were human, they would have no confidants.
And with the volleyball fraternity sensing a 2-0 sweep from pacesetter either Nkumba or Nemostars, the organisers put the glittering trophies on display and kept the cash prizes close during Game Two last Saturday inside the MTN Arena Lugogo.
There was no place to hide to Vision Volleyball Camp (VVC). But great vision from their coach Hannington Nsubuga and execution from their experienced stars like Josephine Namanda and Lady Volleyball Cranes captain Joan Nabuuto got them over the line with a hard-fought 3-1 (25-15, 18-25, 25-23, 25-15) win over Nkumba in Game Two to level the women Serie A playoff finals.
Pulling off a heist
Likewise Sport-S, written off by an emptying arena that had justifiably opted to watch the epic Arsenal - Man Utd English Premiership clash at the nearby Sideline Sports Bar, managed to pull off a heist.
With Nemostars leading 2-0 after sweeping victories (25-15, 25-11) in the first two sets, Sport-S skipper Dickens Otim, attacker Ivan Ongom and superior tactics from coach Benon Mugisha ignited a mother of all comebacks as the Nsambya-based side rallied to win the next three sets 25-20, 25-15 and the decider 15-6 of the Serie A Men playoff final to the delight of their partisan fans and neutrals. “When we saw the trophies and organisers with the champions placard during our warm-up, we couldn’t believe it that they were thinking that we would lose. It was a surreal moment for us. We got pumped up to deliver. And once we won the first set, we were never rested,” said VVC’s seasoned campaigner Namanda.
“It is all about Game 3. It is the moment everyone in sports and these girls live for. There will be pressure, of course, but I have told the girls to take it as one of the tests in preparation for our continental meet next year,” said VVC coach Nsubuga.
Final day tactics
For his counterpart and former teammate Tony Lakony, today’s final is going to be about endurance and the first set. “If we win the first set, it will set a good tempo for my girls. They are young and know they can last the distance in five sets. We are ready,” said Lakony, who played with Nsubuga at the oldest club in Uganda - Kampala Amateur Volleyball Club (KAVC) - for eons.
Whereas the women’s clash will be a battle of experience (VVC) versus new kids on the block (Nkumba), there will be little to separate the men. It has been a tit-for-tat affair and no wonder the series have gone down to the wire. Even when the chips were down during the season, Nemostars always bounced back with displays that redefined experience and composure.
And whereas their feathers have been ruffled, twice, by student-packed UCU Doves in the semifinals and Sport-S now, the 2015 champions will come bustling with a last-gasp effort to prove that they still have what it takes. In George Aporu, they have easily the country’s best player and alongside the trio of Smith Okumu, Tom Amou and Dr Louis Mubangizi they boast of players that can single-handedly win championships for ‘old coach’ Neko Muduse-Ojala and Andrew Okapis’ like they have done in the past.
But Sport-S cannot be written off. They have balance, poise and confidence. And with the ‘old wise head’ of Warren Muhangi in their dugout as a mentor/senior player, Mugisha and his brigade will be itching to throw a spanner or two in Nemostars’ works on ‘judgment day’.
2017 Aziz Damani National
Volleyball League Playoffs Finals
Today – MTN Arena, Lugogo
Serie A - Women Final
Nkumba vs. VVC, 6pm
Serie A – Men Final
Nemostars vs. Sport-S, 8pm