Defending champion Kerala subdued Tamil Nadu 25-22, 25-23, 25-23 to retain the men’s title in the 61st National volleyball championship here on Tuesday.
Though the margin looked close in the end, it was actually emphatic fare by Kerala, the crowd favourite, as it bottled up a team which had beaten it in the league phase.
There were at least three posters of Tom Joseph with a bunch of spectators in the arena, and he did not disappoint his fans as he was in the forefront to power Kerala to victory. Joseph smashed with power and also lent support to the defence when the situation demanded.
With the energetic K.S. Ratheesh, Vibin M. George. S. Ajesh and P. Rohith spiking with precision and power, apart from putting up tight blocks, Kerala proved a tough nut to crack.
Kerala played much better in crunch situations, like in the second game when the score read 23-23; Ajesh and Ratheesh clinched the next two points with a touch of assurance.
Tamil Nadu had equalised at that stage after the best rally of the match, but it was unable to sustain the good work.
There were other memorable moments too when the teams lifted their game, befitting the final, but Kerala was able to wrest the initiative every time Tamil Nadu took the lead and threatened to make a fight of it.
G.R. Vaishnav, G. Pradeep, K.P. Shaheem and Naveen Raja Jacob played their part for Tamil Nadu, but it was not enough. Substitutes Shelton Moses and S. Karthik also worked hard, but Tamil Nadu could not bring about a change in its fortunes.
When Tamil Nadu won three points in a row to be 23-24 in the third set, it appeared that there would be further entertainment, but Ajesh slammed the ball to trigger a spontaneous round of celebration in the Kerala camp.
Kerala’s fifth title in the championship was a tremendous achievement for the young team, preparing with an eye on the National Games to be staged at home.
In the women’s final, Kerala tried its best, but could not make much of an impression on Railways, which clinched its 28th title in the championship.
Kerala did lead 13-10 in the first set, but once Railways found its rhythm, it ran away with the set.
Kerala had some good spells, in the middle of the second set and early in the third set when it managed an 8-7 lead, but its hopes were dashed as Railways attacked with conviction.
Minimol Abraham, Priyanka Bora and captain K. Reshma were outstanding for Railways with their sharp spiking. Libero Priyanka Khedkar, V. Soumya, Terin Antony and Anusri Ghosh also played their part well for the champion side.
Men: Final: Kerala bt Tamil Nadu 25-22, 25-23, 25-23;
Third place: Uttarakhand bt Haryana 25-18, 25-15, 25-20.
Women: Final: Railways bt Kerala 25-17, 25-21, 25-14;
Third place: Andhra Pradesh bt Tamil Nadu 25-19, 25-9, 25-20.
Keywords: National volleyball championship