Defending champion Kerala shook off a shaky start and defeated Tamil Nadu 18-25, 25-8, 25-15, 25-21 in a women’s round robin league match of volleyball’s Federation Cup at the Jimmy George Stadium here on Friday night.

Despite starting with a 15-11 lead, Kerala fumbled with a series of errors to lose the opening set. The host raced away with the next two sets but had to fight hard for the victory in the fourth.

It did not take long for Kerala to throw away the five-point advantage in the opener. P.V. Sheeba suddenly found her smashes blocked by V. Manju.

Meanwhile, S. Rekha, who had looked confident at the start, turned erratic, after which Sheeba and home setter Sruthimol ran into each other in confusion.

At the other end, Tamil Nadu’s Usha Priya came up with some inspired play. Though not tall, her angled smashes evaded the home block.

With Elizabeth Paul impressing with her block and smashes, TN equalised at 16 and took the set at 25-18.

The loss of the opening set set alarm bells off in the host camp.

Sheeba still had problems getting her smashes through the wall put up by Elizabeth Paul and P. Narmada, but attackers Rekha and P.P. Reshma came up with a series of points as TN took a 16-4 lead in the second. The scene was similar in the next set.

At the other end, Narmada came up with a consistent performance, especially from the left.

But TN playmaker Devika Devarajan kept feeding her too many balls which took the punch out of Narmada’s spiking.

Usha Priya and Narmada were in fine touch in the fourth set. Narmada cut out the power a bit and trained her guns on the edge of the block set up by Tiji Raju and Sheeba.

The scores were level at six and 13, but shortly after, Rekha and Anju Balakrishnan finally managed to thwart Narmada, and a little later Usha Priya too, with their smart blocks and with Reshma impressing in the attack, Kerala hung on to a three-point lead to win the match.

Uttarakhand on course

Later, in the men’s group B Uttarakhand edged out Punjab 25-22, 24-26, 22-25, 25-20, 15-12 in a 100-minute thriller and moved closer semifinal berth.

Indian captain Gurinder Singh, with fine smashes and drops, and Rajvir Singh sparkled as Punjab raced to a 7-3 lead in the decider.

But Uttarakhand turned the match around stunningly after that. International Mandeep Singh came up with three nicely-placed smashes while the seasoned Subba Rao impressed with a block at a crucial stage and followed it up with a quick smash to steer the team to victory.

The results (league): Women’s round robin: Kerala bt Tamil Nadu 18-25, 25-8, 25-15, 25-21.

Men Group B: Uttarakhand bt Punjab 25-22, 24-26, 22-25, 25-20, 15-12

Thursday’s result: Men’s Group B: Uttarakhand bt Rajasthan 25-18, 19-25, 25-20, 25-20.

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