It was a cliffhanger as expected. And Punjab came through a worthy winner beating Karnataka 20-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-23 in the men’s Group B match. It also helped Punjab keep its semifinal hopes alive in the Federation Cup volleyball tournament here on Tuesday.

Later, National champion Kerala snuffed out Rajasthan 25-22, 25-18, 25-17 in a men’s Group A encounter.

With veteran Tom Joseph, skipper Vibin M. George and the lanky K.S. Ratheesh leading its charge, the home side required just under an hour to overcome Rajasthan, which despite a good defence, could hardly match the firepower of its rival.

With two consecutive defeats Rajasthan now finds itself out of the running for a place in the semifinals.

With much at stake — Punjab had lost to Tamil Nadu late on Monday night and Karnataka had lost to Uttarakhand on the opening day — both sides rose to the occasion.

Having the dependable Naveen Kumar and Arun D’Costa at the helm and an equally capable support cast of skipper T.D. Ravi Kumar, Vinayak Rokhade and libero Maruthi G. Nayak in the defence, Karnataka got off the blocks well.

Karnataka, making the most of the confusion that prevailed between Rajvir Singh Bassi and Sandeep Singh at the Punjab net, strode to an early lead and then pocketed the first set 25-20.

The second set saw Punjab opting for Satnam Singh in place of Rajvir.

The consequent better feed also helped skipper Gurinder Singh and Harminder Pal Singh to pierce through the Karnataka defence and score points at will, through well-directed smashes or deft placements, winning the set 25-22.

Karnataka seemed a bit lost as Punjab fired consistently, its deep defence often lay in tatters when pushed by Gurinder and Harminder. Punjab thus was able to claw its way back into the match, taking the second at 25-22.

The third was keenly contested all along and though finally Punjab seemed to gain the edge having moved to 24-22, Gurinder served into the net giving Karnataka the opportunity to close in and take the lead.

However, an effective block by Sandeep and Ranjodh Singh and a brilliant smash by Satnam helped Punjab get back and take the set at 27-25.

The lead changed freely in the fourth but Punjab gained the vital edge in the nick of time to close out the match at 25-23.

Karnataka, following its second straight loss, is now out of the reckoning for a place in the final four.

Tamil Nadu women began their campaign with a rousing 25-23, 25-15, 25-19 win over Andhra Pradesh.

The crucial weakness that AP seemed to suffer from almost all through was the first pass on the rival serve, which normally helps a side mount its attack.

This provided TN and its happy spikers  — Preethi and Jennifer — many loose balls at the net for easy pickings.

After a reasonably close first set, any hope of AP putting up a close fight dissipated into thin air in the second when Tamil Nadu ran up a mind-boggling 9-0 lead on serve.

The rest was easyfor Tamil Nadu and it wrapped up the set at 25-15 and ran through its rival in the third (25-20) for a win.

The results: Men: Group B: Punjab bt Karnataka 20-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-23. Group A: Kerala bt Rajasthan 25-22, 25-18, 25-17.

Women (round robin): Tamil Nadu bt Andhra Pradesh 25-23, 25-15, 25-19.

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