A spirited Uttarakhand delivered the shock of the event by showing title holder Kerala the exit door with a 25-22, 25-23, 25-21 win in the men’s semifinals of the 62nd National volleyball championship at the Teerthanker Mahaveer University indoor sports complex here on Saturday.
In the other last-four contest, a resilient Tamil Nadu edged out Services in a neck-and-neck fight to set up a summit clash with Uttarakhand.
In the women’s semifinals, Kerala beat Tamil Nadu 25-12, 25-19, 25-18 and would meet defending champion Railways in the final. Railways outsmarted Haryana 25-11, 25-13, 25-15.
Notwithstanding the effective hit-and-block strategy of the Uttarakhand men, Kerala became the victim of its own faults.
Kerala’s poor reception and unforced errors hampered the team’s progress, while Uttarakhand prospered due to its outstanding blocking skills. Seasoned Y. Subba Rao and Navjit Singh defended solidly, while captain Mandeep Singh and Lalit Kumar hammered some booming shots to help Uttarakhand claim the opening set.
Despite Tom Joseph’s heroics in patches, Kerala struggled to find its rhythm as Uttarakhand employed some new combinations, also involving Mandeep, Ranjit Singh and Sukhjinder Singh, to present an impregnable wall before the rival attackers.
Mandeep and company picked their opportunities to breach the porous Kerala defence and take the second set as well. With momentum on its side, Uttarakhand went on to seal the match in its favour and enter the final after a gap of one year.
“Our blocks were too good and that’s why we won today,” said Uttarakhand coach P. Kamaraj.
Kerala missed out on a slot in the final after three years. “Our reception was bad and it affected our attack,” said coach S. Manoj.TN pips Services
Last edition’s runner-up Tamil Nadu wiped out a one-set deficit to pip Services 23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 15-10 in an action-packed last-four battle.
Services drew first blood and applied tremendous pressure to seize initiative. But, Tamil Nadu rectified its mistakes in passing and concentrated on its service to earn the equaliser. Naveen Raja Jacob stood out with his penetrating serves and jumping smashes and played a crucial role for his team.
Services gained from Sanjay Sharma’s brilliant raids and captain Shijas P. Mohammad’s incisive attacks to make it 2-1. At the net, the towering Lijo Joseph and Sarath Kumar T.P. defended well and placed the ball nicely to gather important points.
However, Tamil Nadu replied strongly. The experienced M. Ukkrapandian won hearts with his deceptive drop shots and accurate serves, while G.S. Akhin and G.R. Vaishnav exhibited their usefulness near the centre line as Tamil Nadu grabbed the next two sets without much trouble.
“Initially, we had problems in our first passing. Thankfully, we corrected it in time,” said Tamil Nadu coach P. Sundaram.
The results: Men: Semifinals: Uttarakhand bt Kerala 25-22, 25-23, 25-21; Tamil Nadu bt Services 23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 15-10; Quarterfinals: Tamil Nadu bt Rajasthan 25-17, 25-14, 25-15.
Women: Semifinals: Railways bt Haryana 25-11, 25-13, 25-15; Kerala bt Tamil Nadu 25-12, 25-19, 25-18.