Sport is like gambling, both parties cannot win. And finals are such heartbreakers that if they were human, they would have no confidants.
That is precisely why no coach loves to play deciders. The pressure involved borders on unbearable but the beauty is that when you place yourself in an awkward situation, as both Sport-S and Nemostars have done in the finals of the Aziz Damani National Volleyball League, there is a chance for redemption.
Nemo are the defending champions with three titles on the bounce since 2015 but even coach Andrew Okapis is not oozing as much confidence as he has had in the past.
His side surrendered a 2-1 lead to hand Sport-S, who are hunting for their first title since 2009, the advantage in Game One on Thursday.
Less than 48 hours later, they seemed not to have recovered as they let Sport-S, which particularly targeted Nemo’s best attacker George Aporu on the serve, take set one of Game Two 25-23 in a near-packed arena.
But champions find ways and Nemo inspired by John Opolot, showed depth as they took the lead with 25-22 and 25-23 wins in subsequent sets.
Sport-S, however, are highly motivated and they dug themselves up a couple of times to take the fourth set 25-23. Somehow, they felt they were close but no one told them not to celebrate their eggs before they hatch.
Trailing the decisive set 12-9, Okapis called time-out to stop Sport-S’s momentum. And somehow Benon Mugisha’s side did not get the trick. They spent most of those 30 seconds drawn in the excitement of needing just three points to settle this.
“No, Nemo fought more after that call and we failed to convert just one ball,” Mugisha said as he exonerated his side of getting carried away and letting Nemo force a decisive game.
We are back to 2017 when Nemo won Game One, let Sport-S bounce back in Game Two and then finished them off in Game Three.
There is no guarantee for both teams going into this year’s Game Three, whose date was yet to be confirmed by press time, except that one will in bask in glory while the other recounts what could have been.
They say never give Nemo a chance to come back and in Aporu, Smith Okumu and Tom Amou, they boast of players that can single-handedly win championships.
But Sport-S, which beat Nemo twice in regular season, cannot be written off. They have squad balance, poise and confidence oozing from Maker ‘Thorn’ Magembo, Dickens Otim and ‘old wise head’ Warren Muhangi.