HSIIDC, Haryana, shocked local favourite and host IOB 25-22, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22 — just the result that sent a valiant Indian Navy out of the reckoning — in the IOB platinum jubilee national club volleyball championship here on Wednesday.
However, the result does no harm to IOB, which — with two wins — has already ensured itself a berth in the knock-out stages from group A. Considering its dominance till date the reversal was a surprise. But then, the Haryana team is filled with performers of excellence led by the imperious Sanjay Kumar, who guides the side, goads his men and sets an example himself with his attack and lifts.
For IOB, Naveen Raja did not seem in his element, and Nadarajan inconsistent. Selvaprabhu was good, as was Ukrapandian, in boosting the ball. But this was a match that called for a high degree of consistency.
The collective strength of the Haryana team and its ability to take in a one-game loss stood the visitor in good stead. The success seemed destined; it was only a question of time before victory came, and took the side into the knock-out stage.
Earlier, living up to its reputation as a team that can rattle any opponent, Indian Navy, Kochi, rose in stature to end the run of Southern Railway in four games.
As per the championship rules, a straight game victory or a win over four games fetches the victor three points and, based on that gain, Navy has risen to the second place with five points behind IOB.
Navy had almost confirmed its place but the unexpected twist of IOB losing ended its campaign even if on a blazing note.
“We still have a chance,” said Railway head coach and former international T.C. Jothish just before the match. He knew that should Railways win and gain three points, the team would have remained in the hunt at least on paper.
And the way Railway began, running an early lead and getting the smashes and blocks working, the line seemed clear. But Navy proved a late starter. Once Shijas Mohammed regained the rhythm in smashes from various angles of the court and found good support from his colleagues — particularly Vyshak and lanky Lijo Joseph, who specialised in finishing off short boosts — Navy was in control. Poor Kapil Dev could only look in despair.
In the morning, Chennai Customs, inspired by a fine show by Sivabalan, edged BPCL in five games to queer the pitch in Group B. While ONGC looks comfortably entrenched at the top, Customs could take a spot by beating Punjab Police next — a possibility that is bright considering the Punjab team has not looked the power that it is. In the women's section, Southern Railway is proving itself well ahead of the rest. It currently tops the table with two matches to go.
Other results: Men: Group A: Indian Navy bt S. Railway 20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-17; Group B: Chennai Customs bt BPCL 25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 20-25, 15-11.
Women: S. Railway bt SAI Tellicherry 25-14, 25-15, 25-19; Dr Sivanthi bt Eastern Railway 16-25, 19-25, 26-24, 25-17, 15-13; KSEB bt Central Railway 25-16, 25-20, 25-20.
Keywords: IOB volleyball championship