Kerala tames five-time champion Services
Uttarakhand recovered from the brink of defeat to beat Railways 25-27, 18-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-11 in the men’s quarterfinals of the 61st National volleyball championship at the Sawai Man Singh Indoor Stadium here on Sunday.
Uttarakhand had been vulnerable through the tournament, and had just about squeezed into the quarterfinals, as it dropped points to all the teams in the group.
That spell looked to continue asRailways played a dominant game in subduing Uttarakhand in the first two sets.
Though it showed considerable fighting qualities in the first set, Uttarakhand did not have a single game point till 23-23 in the third set.
It was here that the former champion lifted its game, thanks to Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar and skipper S.A. Rahul, to turn the match on its head.
Once it clinched those two crucial points to stay in the match, Uttarakhand was a different team, even as Railways became dispirited and disjointed, particularly in the fifth set.
Railways handled the fourth set very well till it led 17-15. However, Uttarakhand pulled ahead, clinching six points on the trot with solid blocks and explosive strikes.
In the decider, Uttarakhand led 8-5 while changing sides, and once it stretched the lead to 10-5, the writing was on the wall.
The big-serving Lalit Kumar fittingly won the last point for Uttarakhand.
Defending champion Kerala did not break into a sweat as it tamed five-time champion Services in straight sets.
Kerala was distinctly a notch above its opponent and was quite explosive with its spikes, as skipper Y. Manu was just too good in setting up nicely for Tom Joseph, K.S. Ratheesh, P. Rohith and T.S. Ajesh.
Kerala will be challenged by Haryana in the semifinals. The latter beat its neighbour Punjab in straight sets.
The resurgence of Haryana was not surprising even though the team had won just one set in the league from three matches and had to come through the pre-quarterfinals to join the elite. In contrast, Punjab had topped its group and had won points against all the teams including one point against Uttarakhand for its 2-3 defeat.
Led from the front by skipper Sanjay Kumar, Haryana attacked relentlessly and also showed the smartness to come up with delectable drops to tame an opponent which tended to rely more on power than discretion.
Narender Singh and Navjeet Singh also played a key role in making Haryana look champion class.
The Tamil Nadu men came up with a superior performance to silence the vocal local crowd, and M. Ukkirapandian’s drops provided the icing on the cake, for the team’s straight-set victory over host Rajasthan.
The agitated crowd threw a plastic chair at the end of the match, but luckily it did not reach the court or cause any injury to the spectators.
In the women’s section, there were no surprises as champion Railways, runner-up Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh made the semifinals.
A bunch of spectators gathered for the last match of Kerala women to pep up the teams, and that was the only spell of cheer.
The results (quarterfinals):
Men: Tamil Nadu bt Rajasthan 25-16, 25-20, 25-14; Uttarakhand bt Railways 25-27, 18-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-11; Kerala bt Services 25-14, 25-21, 25-21; Haryana bt Punjab 25-21, 25-23, 25-22.
Women: Railways bt West Bengal 25-13, 25-18, 25-14; Andhra Pradesh bt Himachal Pradesh 25-21, 25-22, 25-9; Tamil Nadu bt Uttar Pradesh 25-11, 25-18, 25-23; Kerala bt Haryana 25-19, 25-18, 25-12.
Keywords: National volleyball championship