Railway women retains crown with ease

Kerala men rose in unison to annihilate Uttarakhand 25-22, 25-22, 25-13 and win the National title for the fourth time, in the 60th senior National volleyball championship, at the Balbir Juneja Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

The Railway women extended their hegemony by winning the 27th title with consummate ease against Kerala in a one-sided final. They won 25-12, 25-14, 25-16.

It was at Raipur in 2001 that Kerala won its last men's title beating Tamil Nadu. It repeated the feat a decade later after 72-minute final.

Dominant display

Kerala came up with a display that left Uttarakhand absolutely flabbergasted. Uttarakhand's ploy of blocking out the Kerala spikers did not work out despite Y. Subba Rao and Mandeep Singh tasting success early.

Kerala's Manu Joseph was practically unstoppable in the spiking zone. When Man of the tournament Tom Joseph brought into play his sledgehammer smashing and cunning drops, Uttarakhand was left clueless.

In the backcourt, libero Kiran Philip was outstanding in reception. V. Manu was extraordinary in setting with imagination and purpose, while Azeez looked solid in defence and flamboyant in attack, surprising the opposition on a number of occasions.

Uttarakhand's universal Mandeep Singh, captain Rathish and Gurchand Singh were totally off colour. Subba Rao was good in patches in blocking and spiking. Setter Ranjit Singh tried his level best but lack of consistency in first pass made his job all the more difficult.

Avinish Yadav came on as a substitute but was not allowed to go on attack often owing to terrific pressure on the defence.

Early fight

Uttarakhand, which won the title in 2002, fought hard till 17-all only to see Kerala pulling away to win the first set at 25-22. Lack of bench strength and ageing players compounded Uttarakhand's woes.

It tried hard in the second but Kerala came up with a renewed vigour to win at 25-22. Uttarakhand was in complete disarray in the third set and caved in quickly.

Aiming to win its 11th title, Kerala women seemed to have hit a wall in Railways whose tall Priyanka Bora excelled as a spiker and blocker. Woman of the tournament Terin Antony set up the attack nicely as Railway ran through the contest in 58 minutes for its fourth title in a row.

The results:

Men: Final: Kerala bt Uttarakhand 25-22, 25-22, 25-13. Third place: Services bt TN 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 28-26.

Women: Final: Railways bt Kerala 25-12, 25-14, 25-16. Third place: West Bengal bt AP 25-23, 25-13, 25-18.

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