Volleyball is a six-a-side sport, but Tamil Nadu appeared to have more men in every department as it defeated Services 25-21, 25-19, 25-19 and lifted the men’s title in the Federation Cup at the Jimmy George Stadium here on Sunday.
Earlier, national champion Railways defeated defending champion Kerala 25-21, 25-18, 25-16 in the round-robin decider and won the women’s title with Kerala finishing runner-up.
With stars like M. Ukkarapandian, attackers Jerome Vinith and Naveen Raja and blockers G. Vaishnav and G.S. Akhin who could perform multiple roles brilliantly, national champion TN won the men’s final a lot faster than many expected.
Services, with eight Kerala-born players, got loud support from a crowd heartbroken after Kerala’s loss. And Services, thriving on strong spiking by A. Anshad and Pankaj Sharma, raced to a 10-6 lead in the opening set.
TN took some time to work out a strategy for Anshad for he broke every wall set up for him. But while the blockers and the backcourt could not do much against Anshad, TN kept piling up the points through their strong areas and this was where Jerome, Naveen and the tall Vaishnav were most effective.
While Jerome attacked from the flanks, Vaishnav dazzled with his quick, high-angle hits. And, Ukkarapandian was his usual brilliant self with his smart setting and naughty drops.
After levelling the score at 11 and winning the first set, TN raced to a 19-13 lead in the next, but lost focus at this stage, allowing Services to come as close as 19-18, before racing to victory.
The third set, where TN contained Anshad with some hard blocks, was a lot easier.Soumya the star
Railways, with six internationals who played the Asian championship in Thailand in September compared to Kerala’s two, was clearly the superior side despite its captain Minimol Abraham sitting on the bench with a knee injury.
V. Soumya was the star of Railways’ triumph. Her crosscourt smashes frequently found their way through the block put up by Tiji Raju and captain P.V. Sheeba or found vacant spots in the Kerala backcourt.
And with Priyanka Bora, the other Railway attacker, appearing a bit shaky in the first set, the burden was on Soumya, but she handled the task impressively. Blocker Anusri Ghosh also came up with some quick smashes to upset the Kerala rhythm.
Kerala, virtually the KSEB side, has been the only team to have given Railways a tough time in recent years — the two played the final in the last National — and the trophy-decider was a tight one tonight.
The home attackers S. Rekha and P.P. Reshma were in fine form in the opening set but as the match wore on, they found the Railway block a big hurdle. Sheeba was off colour in the first two sets and both teams messed up several serves during this period.
The match was close all through, but Railways took a 17-11 lead in the second set which took the wind out of the Kerala sails.
The results: Men’s final: TN bt Services 25-21, 25-19, 25-19. Third place: Uttarakhand bt Kerala 25-23, 25-17, 25-20.
Women’s final: Railways bt Kerala 25-21, 25-18, 25-16.