Mandeep Singh, Gurchand Singh and Subba Rao are players very much capable of changing the complexion of the game in a jiffy. Uttarakhand, finalist last year, depended largely on these three players, to bail itself out in tough situations.
The 25-20, 25-23, 25-17 victory over Karnataka in a Group ‘B' contest of the Velammal Silver Jubilee 59th Senior National volleyball championship, which commenced at the Nehru Indoor Stadium here on Sunday, revealed a quite a few chinks in the team's armour.
Later in the evening, Tamil Nadu got off to a bright start with a 23-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-21 win over Chandigarh in the lone women's match of the day.
Not an easy match
It wasn't an easy match by any yardstick as Karnataka at different phases of the match made things difficult for Uttarakhand. Anup D'Costa and Vishwanath played stellar roles in attack to stretch Uttarakhand.
Service is, of course, Uttarakhand's strength and the team utilised it to the best extent possible. Subba Rao hardly put a foot wrong with his blocks, but Karnataka earned many points in the wings with wonderful smashes and neat placements. There wasn't much support for Rao, one felt.
As it often happens with big teams, a few players rise to the occasion when the going gets tough. For Uttarakhand it was Mandeep and Gurchand.
Mandeep's jumps and the trajectory of his smashes proved to be too much for Karnataka.
The Tamil Nadu women's team won thanks mainly to the attacking instincts of Monisha, Jenifer and Rahana. Struggling to get its block right, Tamil Nadu lost the first set. But slowly and steadily, it turned the match on its head.
“We need to improve in double block,” said Thanganayagi, Tamil Nadu's chief coach.
Earlier in a Group ‘F' contest, Himachal Pradesh men staged a remarkable fightback to defeat Maharashtra 22-25, 13-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-12.
Maharashtra looked the better team in the first two sets. A new-look team with majority of them being freshers, Maharashtra attacked and blocked with purpose. With attacker Raju, blocker Mayur and Sorabh providing the thrust, it seemed to be a cakewalk for Maharashtra.
But Himachal Pradesh's chief coach D.S. Rana had other plans. Shuffling his players according to the situation, he made his boys remain fresh and vigilant.
The third set swung like a pendulum and once HP took a 22-20 lead, it gained in confidence. Its blocks and attacks had more vigour even as Maharashtra's confidence ebbed.
Libero Sanjiv Sharma and setter Abhishek Soni played a crucial role in the decider that ensured HP's victory.
Delhi opened its campaign with a hard-fought win over Madhya Pradesh in five sets while Puducherry scripted a straight-set win over Goa.
Defending champion Tamil Nadu men will open their campaign against Punjab while Kerala will challenge Services in Group 'A' matches on Monday. Haryana, which finished third last year, will face Railways, former champion in a Group 'B' tie.
The results (league): Men: Delhi bt Madhya Pradesh 18-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-13, 15-8; Chandigarh bt Jharkhand 23-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18, 15-13; Bihar bt Andaman 25-8, 25-17, 25-13; Puducherry bt Goa 25-17, 25-16, 25-20; Himachal Pradesh bt Maharashtra 22-25, 13-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-12.
Women: Tamil Nadu bt Chandigarh 23-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-21.
Keywords: National Volleyball Championship