Railways downs Karnataka in Group ‘B'

Is the Tamil Nadu men's team the best we have seen in the ongoing Velammal Silver Jubilee 59th Senior National volleyball championship, as some suggest? Though it's too early to hazard a definite statement, it could be safe to venture as far as saying that it's the most balanced team among the elite groups.

Playing against Kerala in its third and final match on Wednesday, Tamil Nadu handled the tough questions posed by its southern counterpart with aplomb and emerged unscathed to top Group ‘A' and justify its top billing.

The 25-15, 20-25, 26-24, 25-16 victory, however, was no cakewalk. In fact, it was by far the toughest match for the host. But the positive aspect was that TN showed its fighting spirit and proved that it is game for a hard-fought battle.

Earlier, Railways battled past Karnataka 27-25, 25-18, 30-28 in a Group ‘B' contest to finish second behind Uttarakhand.

Naveen Raja Jacob, John Christopher and Pradeep are the pillars of strength for Tamil Nadu. However, it was a mixed day for all three.

Naveen and John were superb at the net, attacking extremely well, but they erred badly in service. Pradeep, despite his finish being above par, couldn't perform the job of blocking with distinction.

Libero Kanagaraj made difficult points count with his dives and clean underarm passes. G.E. Sridharan, the team's chief coach, acknowledged that there were areas that needed to be worked upon.

After winning a close second set, Kerala was brimming with enthusiasm and ideas in the third set. Ragesh was spiking flawlessly while Rajeev hardly missed a chance. Slowly and steadily, Kerala took a three-point lead and enlarged it as the match progressed.

At one point, it was leading 21-17 and had three set points at 24-21. Naveen's smashes came to the rescue as Tamil Nadu won the third 26-24 and in the fourth set, it reorganised itself to demolish the opponent. Prabagaran was the hero in Railway's triumph over Karnataka. He blocked exceptionally well, attacked with raw energy and pinpoint accuracy. He was the man Railways should thank for the triumph.

The six teams — three in each group — which reached the men's quarterfinals (knock-out) are Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Services from Group ‘A' and Uttarakhand (it maintained a clean slate), Railways and Haryana from Group ‘B'.

In the women's section, Railways, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu from Group ‘A' qualified for the last eight while in Group ‘B' Kerala, West Bengal and Karnataka made the grade.

On Thursday evening, the men's and women's quarterfinal qualifying matches will take place. In the men's event, the fourth placed teams in Group ‘A' (Punjab) and ‘B' (Karnataka) play the top two in lower Groups — ‘C' to ‘F'.

The results:

Men: Group ‘A': TN bt Kerala 25-15, 20-25, 26-24, 25-16; Services bt Punjab 25-15, 25-15, 25-12.

Group ‘B': Uttarakhand bt Haryana 25-16, 25-22, 25-19; Railways bt Karnataka 27-25, 25-18, 30-28.

Group ‘C': UP bt Gujarat 25-14, 25-19, 25-23; Orissa bt J&K 25-16, 25-12, 25-15.

Group ‘D': West Bengal bt Goa 25-21, 25-19, 27-25; M.P bt Puducherry 23-25, 25-12, 25-23, 25-21.

Group ‘E': Rajasthan bt Andaman 25-4, 25-10, 25-13; Bihar bt Assam 25-15, 21-25, 25-16, 25-23.

Group ‘F': A.P bt Chandigarh 25-12, 25-17, 25-19; H.P bt Jharkhand 28-26, 25-20, 25-27, 25-14.

Women: Group ‘A': Railways bt Chandigarh 25-10, 25-9, 25-11; A.P bt TN 21-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-23, 15-5.

Group ‘B': Karnataka bt Jharkhand 25-22, 25-14, 25-15; Kerala bt West Bengal 25-17, 25-17, 25-17.

Group ‘C': UP bt Rajasthan 25-13, 25-16, 25-16.

Group ‘D': Maharashtra bt Orissa 25-7, 25-12, 25-18; Maharashtra bt J&K 25-8, 25-8, 25-9. Uttarakhand bt Andaman 25-20, 25-18, 25-19; Orissa bt Andaman 25-5, 25-15, 25-6.

Group ‘E': MP bt Gujarat 25-13, 25-21, 25-6; Haryana bt Puducherry 25-12, 25-12, 25-15.

Group ‘F': HP bt Assam 25-6, 25-6, 25-7; Punjab bt Delhi 25-5, 25-19, 25-17; Punjab bt Chhattisgarh 25-20, 25-18, 25-13; HP bt Delhi 25-5, 25-15, 25-6.

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