Services beats Karnataka as Group A sees a four-way tie

Uttarakhand battled past an inspired Punjab, eking out a 25-17, 22-25, 19-25, 25-14, 16-14 victory in a Group B men’s league match of the 61st National volleyball championship at the Sawai Man Singh Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

After having lost to Karnataka on Tuesday evening, it was a much required victory for Uttarakhand, which has been without the services of two of its leading players, Y. Subba Rao and Vinod Negi, who are out with injuries.

Punjab looked to be playing a more sensible game, once it opted to be judicious in attack and tightened its defence, but it was to the credit of Uttarakhand that it was able to turn the match around with a solid performance in the fourth set.

Yet, it was anybody’s match in the decider, even as Uttarakhand enjoyed a two-point lead midway. But Lalit Kumar’s timely drop sealed it for last year’s runner-up.

Guru Chand Singh stood out for Uttarakhand, particularly in the fifth set, while Mandeep Singh, S.A. Rahul and Rathish Kumar played a fine role in the dramatic triumph.

Though it conceded one point because of a 3-2 victory margin to Punjab, which had earlier beaten Services, the victory was important for Uttarakhand to keep its hopes alive for a better placing in the group in the race for the quarterfinal berths.

Later, Services opened up the group as it beat Karnataka in straight sets, which meant that all the four teams had one victory each.

In the women’s section, defending champion Railways and runner-up Kerala broke little sweat in winning their second successive matches in the league, as they beat Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh respectively.

While Railways was clinical, the young Kerala team looked increasingly better, with captain N.P. Bijina, setter N. Sruthimol, P.J. Jomol and Tiji Raju contributing.

Sruthimol was quite deceptive with her left hand drops even as she consistently set up the attackers.

The Andhra Pradesh girls recovered some ground by beating Karnataka, after having lost to Tamil Nadu, to make it safe for the knock-out.

Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh may have to fight it out with the four group toppers of the lower league to stake their claim for the quarterfinals.

The results (league):

Men: Group B: Uttarakhand bt Punjab 25-17, 22-25, 19-25, 25-14, 16-14; Services bt Karnataka 25-20, 25-16, 27-25. Group C: Jharkhand bt Jammu and Kashmir 25-21, 25-23, 25-13; Andhra Pradesh bt Chhattisgarh 25-14, 21-25, 25-21 37-35. Group D: Uttar Pradesh bt Gujarat 24-26, 22-25, 25-20, 25-12, 15-10. Group E: Rajasthan bt Bihar 25-18, 29-27, 25-16. Group F: Delhi bt Madhya Pradesh 25-16, 25-12, 25-20; Himachal Pradesh bt West Bengal 20-25, 25-17, 19-25, 25-23, 15-7.

Women: Group A: Railways bt Tamil Nadu 25-10, 25-13, 25-20; Andhra Pradesh bt Karnataka 25-16, 25-11, 25-23. Group B: Uttar Pradesh bt West Bengal 25-27, 25-14, 25-19, 25-22; Kerala bt Himachal Pradesh 25-17, 25-15, 25-12. Group C: Gujarat bt Maharashtra 25-22, 25-21, 25-12. Group F: Delhi bt Chhattisgarh 25-14, 25-19, 25-10.

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