Ahly and Pipeline repeat duel in African Club Championship final
Pipeline of Kenya huddle during the match against Shams of Egypt, where the former claimed a 3-2 victory at the semifinal of the 2015 Women's African Club Championship
Ahly rebounded after missing the services of middle blocker Nermeen Elmenshawy to injury during the match, to win against Carthage 3-2 (25-23, 16-25, 24-26, 26-24, 15-11).
Ahly’s other middle blocker Mariam Elmetwally stepped up to lead her team to victory with 26 points, including six block kills and five service aces. Fatma Agrebi contributed 24 points for Carthage.
Carthage started with dominance through their middle blockers Marwa Boughnemi and Abir Othmani to lead 8-5 and 16-13 in the technical timeouts. Ahly regained their composure utilising the attacks of Cuban Yunieska to finish with an overturn in the first set 25-23.
Carthage led 8-5 in the second set before Ahly’s Elmenshawy fell with a knee injury. Ahly’s offence suffered immensely from Elmenshawy’s absence and allowed the Tunisian side, led by Agrebi, to widen the gap and take the second set in favour of Carthage 25-16.
Ahly coach Hamdy El Safy switched the positions of his captain Sherihan to opposite and the Cuban Yunieska to outside spiker. Egyptian youngers Rana El Gohary replaced Elmenshawy and helped Ahly to trail Carthage with a slim margin. Ahly took the lead for the first time in the third set 21-20 until Carthage saved three set points from Agrebi and Mariem Brik’s aggressive offence to take a 26-24 victory.
Carthage carried on the momentum to the fourth set with skilful combination plays from setter Marwa Barhoumi, but Ahly fought well from Nahla Sameh’s defence and attacks, and Elmetwally’s superb blocks and aces that grabbed the momentum to their side for a narrow 26-24 win and an extension of the match to a tiebreaker.
Elmetwally pushed Ahly to a 6-0 advantage before Carthage fought back to cut the deficit to 8-4 at the side change. Ahly’s became more confident towards the end for a 15-11 triumph in the final set.
Meanwhile, Pipeline overcame Shams of Egypt in the gruelling five-setter 3-2 (20-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-19, 16-14).
Pipeline middle blocker Ruth Jepngeitch scored 21 markers, while Shams attacker Aya Elshami charted 30 points.
Shams opened the first set with a skilful performance led by Aya Elshami to lead Pipeline 8-6 before the latter almost pulled off a comeback led by setter Janet Wanja. Shams coach Ehab Hassan shifted Elshami to outside hitter and Sarah Hanafy to opposite position to claim the first set 25-20.
Pipeline led the second set comfortably after Jepngetich deployed her solid blocks against Shams attackers. Monica Biana aided Jepngetich from the left-side to close the set in favour of Pipeline 25-17.
Pipeline and Shams exchanged points in the third set until Elshami led Shams to lead 16-14 at the second technical timeout. Shams got the needed boost from the defence of Aya Ahmed and Menna Mohamed to pull off a 25-22 win in the third.
Pipeline utilised their quick attacks and Esther Wangechi’s attacks from the opposite side to take control of the fourth set. Shams tried to bounce back but only to decrease the deficit. Wanja led her Pipeline to secure the fourth set 25-19 to force a tiebreaker.
The deciding set went point by point as both teams struggled to take advantage but Kenya’s aggressiveness to win the crucial points helped them clinch the set 16-14.
The final will feature the biggest African contenders Ahly and Pipeline in the most repeated finals encounter in the history of the competition, while Shams will face Carthage for the bronze medal on April 5.
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