Special Correspondent

NIRMAL (AP): Andhra Pradesh men barely survived a stiff challenge from Puducherry 25-22, 21-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-10, while its women managed to take a set off Karnataka before going down 14-25, 25-19, 13-25, 20-25 in the south zone senior volleyball championships at the NTR Stadium here on Thursday.

Spilling serves by the handful, the host just about staved off the opposition's attack in the opening set. In the second, its brittle block was breached time and again, one Pondy attacker grounding the ball by flipping it over backwards! That its gameplan itself lacked cohesion became evident when AP ran into a rotation problem in the third set. `Point to Pondicherry' became a oft-repeated refrain in these two sets.

Revival of fortunes

The fourth saw a revival of fortunes for the home side. The coordination between booster and spiker improved vastly, as did the serving become less predictable. With interception of serve by Pondicherry far better, AP took the route of an early lead to stay ahead in the race to the post. The fifth and deciding set ending at 15 came as welcome relief, not just for its players, but its large group of supporters as well.

Earlier, Karnataka women shot off to a 10-0 lead in the opening set against AP, thanks to controlled serving by Ramya S.T. AP's efforts to come back into the game were well-meaning, only that they were not sustained.

The second set was closer, the host showing initiative in finding unmanned spaces on the rival court.

Timely substitutions by Karnataka coach Krishne Gowda ensured his players didn't tire out, there being no let-up in the visiting side's assault, right until the aim had been achieved.

The results: Men: AP bt Puducherry 25-22, 21-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-10.

Women: Karnataka bt AP 25-14, 19-25, 25-13, 25-20.

Wednesday's late night results: Men: Karnataka bt AP 25-23, 25-21, 25-18, Kerala bt Puducherry 25-18, 25-20, 25-18.

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