Nkumba University beat KCCA 2-0 in the best of three finals series of the women’s Aziz Damani Volleyball League last month to mark a year of dominance.
The record seventh trophy was Nkumba’s eighth of the season and third league title in three years. No team has dominated their sport like these ladies this year.
Coach Tonny Lakony’s side are the only ones that do not seem not to be running out of steam. Vision Volleyball Club’s light dimmed. Ndejje University could not get past KCCA, who in turn could not use their experience to overwhelm a Nkumba side running high on momentum.
Nkumba have a young hungry side but not even their most optimistic fan could have predicted these levels of dominance at the start of the year.
Nkumba went to the Africa Club Championships in Egypt in March full of promise having won the 2018 league and National Club Championships. But after a few logistical issues, they came unstack.
The university side, which will return to the 2020 continental showpiece alongside league runners-up KCCA, travelled in two batches and some of the squad ended up being late for their open with Ivory Coast’s ASEC.
The six available players whitewashed ASEC 3-0 but the game was rendered ceremonial and a walkover awarded to the latter.
Lakony’s side recovered quickly to beat Egyptian giants El Shams 2-3 (25-17, 21-25, 22-25, 25-11, 8-15) the next day and fought hard in a 3-1 loss to Kenya’s Prisons. They were also competitive in their 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-12) loss to GSP from Algeria.
In the end the side that had gone to battle for the top eight positions finished 17th. But they insisted they had taken lessons from the continental showpiece.
Women national team
The fraternity listened and when coach Lakony was further entrusted with the national team, he summoned seven of his Nkumba players ahead of the All Africa Games Qualifiers at MTN Arena – Lugogo in May.
Uganda won two of the games at what doubled as the Zone V Championships against; Ethiopia 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-13) and Rwanda 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-19, 25-17) before losing 3-0 (20-25, 17-25, 16-25) to Kenya who then represented the zone in Morocco later in August.
While the Kenyans still prove to be a hard nut to crack, the new found dominance over the Rwandans counts for something. And it was further proven when Nkumba beat Rwandan opposition en route to winning the esteemed Genocide Memorial Tournament in June.
Nemo fly in Egypt
Men’s volleyball, however, is not running on the same high ground. Theirs has been a sort of an anti-climax after so many promising episodes.
The biggest high of the men’s season was Nemostars sixth-place finish at the Africa Club Championships in Egypt. This is the best placed finish for a Ugandan side at the competition.
Meanwhile, coach Nason Bwesigye’s Uganda Christian University (UCU) had their own baptism of fire as they settled for 11th after beating Botswana’s Police VI 3-0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-23).
UCU had a promising start that saw them drop no set in Pool B wins over Rwanda’s Gisagara and Madagascar’s Gendarmarie. The Mukono-based side had good displays in the final pool games against El Etihad from Libya and Smouha from Egypt too but could not get the finishing touches to beat them. Consequently, they lost a berth in the top eight.
Both sides will go back next year; UCU as National Club Championship holders and Nemostars as league winners.
Nemo’s league win means they have won the title a record six times and four on the bounce.
The only time they have let up in their decade of volleyball was in the 2011 and 2014 seasons when Nkumba and KAVC hoisted it. The only other time they did not win it was in 2016 when controversy meant the league never ended.
Nemo’s 2019 win came on the back of a Game Three boycott from Sport-S, who are yet to win the title since 2009.
The men’s Aziz Damani Volleyball League final has been evenly poised at the time as both sides were level at 1-1. Sport-S and Nemostars had matched each other pound for pound.
The decisive Game Three was a game no one would have wanted to miss. But we ended up settling for an anti-climax instead of what was arguably supposed to be the biggest final in local sport this year.
This was after Sport-S, through their player-coach and facilitator Warren Muhangi wrote to Uganda Volleyball Federation (UVF) president Hadijah Namanda, informing her that they would be “unable to appear for the (decisive) game,” that was moved from hours after Game Two to a later date.
Muhangi also cited cases of match fixing and mistrust from the fraternity – sections of which Muhangi claims “said they did not Sport-S to win because it would not represent Uganda at the continental club championships.”
Before that, the volleyball fraternity had showed unity ahead of the Zone II All Africa Games Qualifiers at Kasarani Stadium – Kenya in June.
The Volleyball Cranes achieved the acceptable bare minimum as they finished second behind favourites and five time All Africa Games champions Egypt plus above fellow East Africans Rwanda and Kenya.
Kenya started well by beating the Cranes 3-2 (22-25, 25-21, 25-21, 15-12). Uganda, who had abysmal preparations, were dealt another blow with a 3-1 (25-17, 15-25, 25-14, 25-20) loss to Egypt.
Fortunately, Kenya also lost 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 26-24) to Rwanda, who had lost 3-1 (25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 25-16) to Egypt on Day One, to bring Uganda back into a chase for a respectable finish.
As Egypt sealed their qualification, the East Africans battled for who would finish second.
It was a time to stand up and be counted for Uganda’s professionals; The then Turkey-based attacker and assistant capatain Daudi Okello and the Bulgaria-based duo of Karthbert Malinga and Ivan Ongom had to propel what coach Nason Bwesigye had termed ‘Uganda’s golden generation’ to further heights by beating Rwanda for the first time in 15 years.
Ditto Rwanda-based Savior Atama and locally experienced stars like captain George Aporu and setter Smith Okumu.
Coach Nason Bwesigye’s ‘Golden Generation’ had to and hope Egypt do not get sloppy against Kenya.
Uganda deployed a man-marking strategy and it worked as they beat Rwanda 3-1 (25-23, 28-26, 18-25, 35-33) and went through the motions as Egypt dropped the second set en route to beating Kenya 3-1 (19-25, 25-23, 26-28, 20-25).