With a few days to go before the first-ever CAVA Women's Volleyball Challenge Cup, the Nepali team is busy training for the mega tournament.
This time, Nepal will face arch-rival India in the group-stage match.
Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan are in this group along with Nepal and India. Nepal is aiming to overcome the challenge of a strong team and make it to the last four.
The two-time title holder of AVC Asian Central Zone held in Bangladesh, Nepal is planning to score a hat-trick of titles in the tournament to be held at the home ground.
Aruna Shahi, the captain of the team, said that they are making preparations with the goal of winning the title with the support of the domestic audience.
Shahi says her team will play in high spirits cashing in on the home supporters.
Nepal had earlier defeated India by one set for the first time in the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) held in 2019. That is Nepal's highest performance so far.
The Nepali team has been busy training for the Challenge Cup for about three months. The training which kicked off with 31 players, currently 14 players are busy undergoing training in the Nepali team.
Spiker Pratibha Mali is not taking part in the Challenge Cup team as she is now taking rest after surgery due to injury. Even though her absence will hit the team, all members of the team are working hard now.
This time Nepali team is dominated by young players. Nirutha Thagunna and Poonam Chand made a comeback to the team while six players are debutants.
Captain Aruna Shahi, Saraswati Chaudhary, Sofia Pun, Usha Bhandari, Kamana Bista and Salina Shrestha are the old faces of the team.
Middle blocker Kavita Bhatta, Sangam Mahato, setter Pragati Nath, spiker Rima Kunwar, Pooja Chaudhary, and libero Shanti Kala Tamang have been included in the team for the first time.
The Nepali team is aiming to achieve a good result with the support of the domestic audience.
"We are playing in the home field with the support of the domestic audience", says Shanti, who is making a debut in the team, "We are working hard so as to turn the tables. We are happy to be part of the team. Technically, we are strong.”
She is confident of putting up a good performance against India when given the opportunity. At one time, receiving and serving were considered as the weak side of the team.
The team is now preparing to improve it. This time, the reception and defense are considered the strengths of the Nepali team.
The Nepali team is being trained by Belgian coach Jan de Brandt. Brandt is supported by Jagdish Prasad Bhatta, Bharat Yadav and Kopila Upreti.
Brandt said that the Nepali team is physically and mentally ready for the Challenge Cup.
"Right now, rather than for the title, we are now planning to advance by winning one match", he said, "Let's reach the semi-finals first, then we are only one step away from the title."
The Challenge Cup will be held from May 22 to 28 at the Covered Hall of the National Sports Council in Tripureshwar. The tournament will kick off with the home team taking on Kyrgyzstan on May 22.
They will play Bangladesh on May 23 and India on May 24. Group B consists of Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Kazakhstan.
A mega tournament is taking place for the first time here in Nepal in Nepali volleyball history. Following the CAVA Women’s Challenge Cup, Nepal will compete in the Asian Games.
Although the main goal of the Nepali team is the title, overcoming the challenge posed by India in the group stage will be a great achievement.