Host Kerala overcame Haryana’s challenge winning 25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 25-11 to make it into the men’s semifinals by topping Group A in the Federation Cup volleyball tournament at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium, Pramadom, on Friday.

The calculators were out on Thursday night soon after Services added a twist to Group A proceedings, toppling Kerala in a hard-fought five-setter, and completing its engagements with two wins and a loss.

Kerala thus was left with no option but to win against hitherto unbeaten Haryana to force a three-way tie. And had the evening match gone into five-sets, the qualifiers would have been decided on point average.

But then, such a situation never arose as Kerala, with an improved display compared to Thursday, shut out its opponent in four sets.

Services with six points in comparison to the home team’s tally of seven finished second in the pool to make the last four grade. Having pocketed the closely-fought first set, Kerala was inching towards victory in the second when Haryana created a stir over a point and even threatened to stage a walk-out.

Off-court incident

The incident happened after Tom Joseph seemed to have gained a valid point to help Kerala to reach 24-22. But then, the Haryana players took objection, citing a net infringement and taking up the matter with the first referee, Balaji Prabhu (Karnataka).

The Haryana skipper Surjit was talking to the referee over the disputed point but matters soon went out of control as Sube Singh, the Haryana mainstay, came gesticulating at the chair without any provocation and abused Balaji Prabhu.

The referee was prompt in red carding Sube Singh for unsportsmanlike behaviour and it was at this stage that the Haryana side threatened to walk away.

However, the VFI observer and the match referee soon intervened and took control of the situation. Still it took ten minutes before the set resumed. Kerala took this too for a 2-0 lead.

However, Haryana seemed to be on a comeback trail as it grabbed the third game. Kerala responded well and with Tom Joseph, K.S. Ratheesh and T.S. Ajesh combining well with playmaker Vimal T. Jacob, Kerala took the wind out of Haryana’s sails and coasted to an easy win in the fourth.

Later, Tamil Nadu expectedly topped Group B making short work of a fighting Uttarakhand 25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 17-25, 21-19.

It was a cracker of a contest as Uttarakhand fought back gamely after being twice in arrears to push the encounter into the decider before conceding defeat in over two hours. Uttarakhand, despite, its defeat still qualified for the last four with two wins from its three matches.

Uttarakhand will take on Kerala in the first semifinal while Tamil Nadu will cross swords with Services in the second, both to be played on Saturday.

The results: Men: Group A: Kerala bt Haryana 25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 25-11.

Group B: Tamil Nadu bt Uttarakhand 25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 17-25, 21-19.

On Thursday: Men: Group B: Uttarakhand bt Punjab 22-25, 22-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-6.

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