In front of a noisy, excited full house, Kerala retained the girls' title at the National sub-junior volleyball championship on Tuesday night.
In a repeat of last year's final, the host beat Tamil Nadu 25-19, 25-19, 16-25, 25-15 at the GBHSS courts, where more than 8,000 people cheered the home team for every point. This bustling North Kerala town is known for its love of football, but this night belonged to volleyball and a fine bunch of Kerala girls.
It was Kerala's all-round strength that helped the team quell a spirited challenge from the Tamil Nadu girls, who raised hopes when they won the third game quite convincingly.
But, with every player rising to the occasion for Kerala and its substitutions working perfectly, Tamil Nadu couldn't much in the fourth game as it failed to stretch the match to a decider.\
Once again, V. Manju caught the eye for Tamil Nadu; she is tall and a lovely player to watch. She unleashed several smashes and blocked nicely too, frustrate the defending champion frequently. E. Poovitha also spiked with precision and setter J. Rose Bell and R. Meenakshi played well for Tamil Nadu, but they couldn't quite match Kerala in resources.
Aleena Shaji and T.S. Krishna were in top form for Kerala as they smashed and blocked with conviction. K.P. Athira also spiked superbly and there was good work by the energetic Hena Paul and skipper Jini, who came up with some nice placings at crucial stages.
And the finishing touches were provided by K.S. Kavyanjali, who placed an intelligent winner, as the host romped home in an hour and 22 minutes.
The results: Final: Girls: Kerala bt Tamil Nadu 25-19, 25-19, 16-25, 25-15.
Play-off for 3rd place: Boys: Karnataka bt Punjab 25-20, 21-25, 28-26, 31-29. Girls: Haryana bt Bengal 25-23, 25-17, 25-13.