Kerala and Tamil Nadu men couldn't have asked for a better start to their campaign in the Velammal Silver Jubilee 59th Senior National volleyball championship at the Nehru Indoor Stadium here on Monday.
Kerala impressed in patches to post a 25-22, 16-25, 25-22, 25-20 victory over Services, while Tamil Nadu, the defending champion, brushed aside Punjab 25-19, 25-15, 25-19.
With four internationals including Vibin M. George, who played in the Guangzhou Asian Games, Kerala was a much superior side. Leading 10-6 in the first set, Kerala never surrendered the advantage.
It had the edge in attack and service, though it fumbled on and off in blocks. Vimal Jacob, and V. Manu at different points of time, as setters played a key role using their judgement to unsettle their opponents.
The best of the lot was Ragesh as the counter attacker. His angled smashes turned out to be winners umpteen number of times and even with his modest height, he made them look ridiculously easy.
Tom Joseph gave a glimpse of his spiking abilities, but he was found wanting on quite a few occasions.
Services, which last won the title in 2003, was at its best in the second set when Shijas Mohammed and Nibin Alam smashing from the wings earned a lot of points. But as the match progressed they failed to maintain their consistency.
It was a superlative performance from Tamil Nadu. There wasn't a player who didn't look good. Shelton Moses not only revelled in his basic role as a blocker, but also attacked when the situation warranted.
John Christopher and Naveen Jacob Raja showed why they are held in high esteem by the fans and media. Their clever, imaginative, attractive and telling jump smashes were a sight to behold.
Pradeep, easily the tallest of the lot, finished off points quickly. Selvaprabhu too joined in the party belting out winners.
On the other hand, a new-look Punjab team with only one senior player in Rajvir Singh Bassi, looked clueless for most part of the match. Maninder Singh, as Universal, was the lone bright spot for Punjab.
Defending champion Railways women won their first match of the championship with an authoritative straight-set win over Andhra Pradesh.
The results (league): Men: Kerala bt Services 25-22, 16-25, 25-22, 25-20; Tamil Nadu bt Punjab 25-19, 25-15, 25-19; Orissa bt Uttar Pradesh 25-18, 27-25, 23-25, 26-24; Gujarat bt Jammu & Kashmir 25-21, 31-20, 25-19; Delhi bt Goa 22-25, 19-25, 25-19, 32-30, 15-12; West Bengal bt Puducherry 25-17, 25-21, 25-21, 25-20; Assam bt Andaman 25-17, 25-17, 25-14; Chhattisgarh bt Bihar 25-22, 25-15, 25-14; Railways bt Haryana 20-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-19.
Women: Railways bt Andhra Pradesh 25-15, 25-11, 25-22; Kerala bt Jharkhand 25-5, 25-8, 25-21; Himachal Pradesh bt Chhattisgarh 25-21, 25-17, 25-17; Andaman bt Jammu & Kashmir 19-25, 17-25, 25-15, 25-18, 15-8; Delhi bt Assam 25-14, 25-17, 25-12; Orissa bt Uttarakhand 25-15, 25-9, 25-13.
Uttar Pradesh bt Bihar 25-6, 25-12, 25-11; Rajasthan bt Tripura 25-21, 25-16, 25-18; West Bengal bt Karnataka 25-18, 22-25, 25-16, 23-25, 15-13.
Keywords: national volleyball championship