Uttarakhand sensationally registered a comeback win over Haryana while Kerala survived a scare against Punjab to set up a semifinal clash in the men’s competition of the 62nd National volleyball championship at the Teerthanker Mahaveer University indoor sports complex here on Friday.
In other quarterfinal contests, Tamil Nadu trounced Rajasthan to fix up a semifinal date with Services. Services shocked Railways to make it to the last four after a gap of two years.
In the women’s section, Haryana defeated West Bengal in a five-setter to improve upon its quarterfinal finish last year. It will face Railways, which outclassed Karnataka in a last eight engagement, in the semis.
Tamil Nadu tamed Uttar Pradesh and will take on Kerala, which beat Punjab, in the last four.
Renewing old rivalry
The intense cold conditions outdoors could not impact the intensity of the matches indoors.
Uttarakhand, which had beaten Haryana to grab the third place in the previous edition, renewed its rivalry with its old foe and was in for a shock after losing the first set.
Captain Sube Singh and Ranveer played some timely blocks while Jitendra Singh delivered several powerful hits to give Haryana a 1-0 lead.
Uttarakhand missed the versatility of the injured Gurchand Singh, but reorganised itself to give a befitting reply. Captain Mandeep Singh and Lalit Kumar showed their muscle power and attacked deep.
They were complemented by Sukhjinder Singh, whose offensive moves near the net helped Uttarakhand draw parity.
The contest swung from side to side as both teams traded powerful shots amid loud cheers.
Despite lacking the depth to consistently exploit the open space in opposition’s back court, Haryana fought hard before Uttarakhand took the third set by the skin of its teeth.
Uttarakhand had found the winning formula and employed all its resources to maintain a slender lead in the fourth set and post a 22-25, 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 victory.
Hard working Punjab
Earlier in the morning, title holder Kerala lazily won the first two sets before being pushed out of its comfort zone by the hard working Punjab players.
Some unforced errors proved costly for Kerala, which lost the third set after leading 20-17 at one stage.
The taste of success encouraged Punjab, which blooded youngsters and the enthusiastic duo of Sandeep Singh and Hardeep Singh thwarted Kerala’s shots stunningly to take the match to the decider.
Nevertheless, Kerala utilised the space on both flanks to record a 25-19, 25-20, 23-25, 19-25, 15-8 win.
“We were a little complacent. It was a wake-up call for us,” said Kerala coach S. Manoj.
The results (quarterfinals):
Men: Kerala bt Punjab 25-19, 25-20, 23-25, 19-25, 15-8; Uttarakhand bt Haryana 22-25, 26-24, 25-22, 25-19; Services bt Railways 25-20, 25-18, 25-23; Tamil Nadu bt Uttar Pradesh 25-17, 25-14, 25-15.
Women: Railways bt Karnataka 25-9, 25-18, 25-13; Haryana bt West Bengal 25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 16-25, 15-8; Tamil Nadu bt Uttar Pradesh 25-12, 25-15, 25-16; Kerala bt Punjab 25-13, 25-10, 25-10.
Keywords: National Volleyball Championship