Haryana withstood the challenge of Services in an exciting five-set thriller in a men’s Group A match of the Federation Cup volleyball tournament here on Monday.

The encounter lasting well over two hours saw a see-saw battle for supremacy before Haryana won 23-25, 25-22, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13.

Having won its first match against Rajasthan 25-23, 25-21, 25-23 late on Sunday night, Services seemed in control during the opening phase of the first set, setting up an early lead of 9-4. With V.G. Prakash, Sujith Sebastian and Kuldeep Singh continuing on with their good work, Services had things clearly going its way as Haryana rather surprisingly failed to measure up at this stage.

Finding their touch

But only for a while did Haryana fumble. With Sube Singh and Surjeet Singh finding their touch at the net and Narender Singh putting up a plucky display, Haryana successfully clawed its way back. And soon the scores were tied at 11-11 and it proceeded the same way until 17-all. Services then dug deep into its reserves and it was soon match point. Haryana saved three match points before the Army men took the first set at 25-23.

The improved performance of Gurpreet Singh for sure had a bearing on the fortunes of Haryana in the second. Lagging behind in the earlier phase, the offence got a boost from Gurpreet and Haryana jumped into a four-point lead at 15-11. Services did try its best to get into the game but was unable to stop Haryana taking the set 25-22. The third set was a replica of the second and Haryana, trailing initially, took it at 25-21.

The timely substitution of Binesh Augustine with Prakash and the introduction of Pankaj Sharma helped Services take the fourth 25-16 and push the match into the decider.

The fifth was yet again evenly contested. The lead changed hands several times but after 10-all, Haryana grabbed the initiative through some effective spiking by Sube Singh to emerge a worthy winner. Haryana took the final set 15-12.

Easy for Kerala

Earlier, host Kerala women began their campaign on a rousing note, toying with Himachal Pradesh in straight sets at 25-15, 25-13, 25-17.

With the experienced Tiji Raju, P.V. Sheeba and skipper N.P. Bijina holding fort at the net and young S. Rekha chipping in well, Kerala brooked no reply from the Himachal girls.

TN men down Punjab

Later, Tamil Nadu men defeated Punjab 25-20, 25-15, 25-19 in Group B. The match was one-sided as Tamil Nadu clicked in all departments of the game and intelligently saw off the brute strength of its rival.

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