Rwandan roar

Baitshepi Sekgweng
RISING TO THE OCCASSION: Gaoleseletse Lizzy Gasekgonwe

Local Volleyball star leads RRA to league glory

After a stop-start, injury-hit first season with Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) Volleyball Club, Gaoleseletse Lizzy Gasekgonwe was back to her brilliant best this year, leading her unfancied side to league glory.

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Ending RRA’s seven-year wait for the Rwandan National League Title, the high-flying veteran and her young teammates clinched the championship in dramatic fashion.

Having commenced in March, the 15-game, six-team league went down to the final day of the season, with a straight shoot-out between RRA and defending champions, Armèe Patrotique Rwandaise (APR).

Needing a whitewash to seal the deal, Captain Gasekgonwe and her charges did just that, thumping their arch rivals 3-0 to leapfrog them at the top of the table and take the title by a single point, 34 to 33.

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“Honestly it means a lot for me to have won this title, more so that I was playing with mostly young, inexperienced players. Basically I was trying to build a team while we were in the competition so winning at the end of the season shows a lot of dedication, hard work and commitment. Last season we finished third; we did not do well because I was injured, as was another key player in the team,” the 38-year-old tells Voice on Sport from her Kigali base.

Reflecting on the intense finale against APR, which saw them qualify for the 2024 Africa Club Championships, the former Mafolofolo and Mag-Stimela attacker adds, “As an experienced player I sat with my teammates and told them that we can pull this off as long as we are going to work together. Through hard work here we are and now six of those players have managed to get call ups from the national team which I am really proud of and that helps us to have a good shape and more experience within.”

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League success marks the latest spike in a year of domestic dominance for Gasekgonwe and RRA, who triumphed in the Kayumba and Gisaka Cups, as well as roaring to victory in the Nyerere Memorial International tournament in Tanzania last month.

Currently taking part in the Zone V Club Championships, RRA got off to a winning start, once again beating APR 3-0 in their opening encounter – talk about rubbing salt i the wounds!

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Last year’s injury woes aside, Gasekgonwe’s time in Central Africa has been littered with success since signing for University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies (UTB) Volleyball Club in 2020.

In her first season with UTB, Gasekgonwe tasted league glory; however, she feels this latest success is even sweeter.

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“Playing for RRA is different from UTB because at UTB I found many experienced players in the fold than in here. So I had to study my girls’ character and attitude. That is why I was appointed team captain this year looking at the maturity and experience I possess,” explains the volleyball export, adding that although her contract is up at the end of the year, and despite several clubs chasing her services, she hopes to agree a new deal with RRA.

Meanwhile, back at home, the Botswana Volleyball Federation (BVF) Golden Cup is heating up nicely.

This weekend sees the start of the knockout stages, with Pool A table-toppers Kutlwano taking on University of Botswana-Yaros.

The ladies quarter-finals also pits Police against Mag-Stimela, BDF will play Sebokeng while Mafolofolo lock horns with Kalavango.

As for the men, Police meet Spiking Stars, Kalavango clash with Motlakase, BDF battle Mag-Stimela with Kutlwano completing things against University of Botswana-Yaros.

All games will be played at SSKB Courts on Saturday, with the semi-finals set for Sunday.

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