Local volleyball teams have shifted focus to the upcoming Africa Zone VI Club Championships where they are aiming for glory away from home, in Durban, South Africa from the 30th of November until the 8th of December 2018.
All the top three teams – both the ladies and men’s section – who did impressively well during the first round of the Mascom Volleyball League, which ended last month, have qualified for the regional championships. In the ladies section, Botswana is represented by Mag-Stimela, Kutlwano and Mafolofolo while the men’s division is made up of Police VI, BDF VI and Kutlwano.
However most of the interest will be on the new entrants Mag-Stimela who will be making their debut at the competition. Stimela shocked many volleyball fanatics this year by winning the Mascom Volleyball League championship ahead of the super predators Kutlwano and Mafolofolo. Though the Mahalapye-based side will be taking part in the tournament for the first time, experience of players like Gabaresepe Mashaole, Gaoleseletswe Gasekgonwe and Tsholofelo Retshabile might help the team since they have played and won the tournament with Mafolofolo in 2016.In addition, the trio is in the national team, which will work wonders for the side.
“I can’t say the preparations have been good because we have been having some hiccups here and there but the expectation is that next weekend we will be starting our weekend training camps. So after all we are new comers in the event so I don’t want to put too much pressure on my girls – any medal we win there will be suitable for us, ”said Stimela assistant coach Ruth Mbangwa.
In the men’s section, newly crowned league champions, Police VI are expected to redeem themselves after performing badly in the previous tournament in Zimbabwe. Ditau, as Police VI are known, were knocked out in the quarterfinal stages by University of Johannesburg in the previous tourney. However, after their splendid performance in the league this season, the Cops will be looking forward to dominate the region once again. Just like Stimela, Police VI have the crème de la crème of local volleyball in the likes of Happy Ribbin, Alec Angleton, Moemedi Siphambe and Lebogang Magote who are all national team players.
“The preparations are going well and the morale is high. Mind you this is not the first time going into Zone VI, so we know what is going on there. No injuries incurred so it’s up to me to select my squad for the competition,” said Police VI coach Shimaka Ngwanaotsile.
Kutlwano volleyball clubs (men & women) also head to the tournament as favourites. In the past years they have been perennial participants at the competition except in 2017 where they did not attend due to financial constraints. They have also won the tournament on numerous occasions and are regarded as one of the best teams in the region. Big House, as they are known, won the tournament for the last time in 2011.
“We have introduced a unique training schedule which is done in two phases. We do physical training midweek and play in-door during the weekend. This is to accommodate all players who stay outside Gaborone. But our only challenge is two of our players Merapelo Tshimologo and Thapelo Kamberuka who are on light training because of the injuries they have,” said Kutlwano setter Tjiyapo Madeluka.
When quizzed about potential threat from Mozambique and South African teams, Madeluka declared: “All teams are a threat because they qualified as best teams from their countries. They are even best teams from Zimbabwe and Lesotho who have won the tournament in the past, so they know what is expected to win the tournament. So for us we are going there to win the tournament. We did it before and we have the best team despite this year’s results. We know where we went wrong but that was a learning curve,” said Madeluka.
Though local teams have dominated the tournament in the past years, it seems their way through to the top won’t be easy this year as teams like Redskins (Lesotho), Kamplits (South Africa) and Support Unit (Zimbabwe) have all qualified for the event. These are teams which have given local teams some massive challenge and threat in their reign in the last years. So it remains to be seen if local clubs will be able to continue with their dominance once again at the tournament. The team that will emerge the champions from both sections will earn a spot to compete at the Confederation of Africa Volleyball Africa Interclub Championships next year where they will play various winners from six regions of Africa.