BPCL and KSEB, the two teams in the fray from Kerala for the National inter-club volleyball championship which gets underway in Chennai from Monday, are aiming at the title and nothing less.

If their recent performances are anything to go by, their confidence does not seem to be misplaced.

“We have been in top form throughout this season and we are aiming at the title in Chennai,” says BPCL coach V. Sethumadhavan. “We have been the National club champions before and this side has the talent to triumph once again.”

He adds that Tom Joseph’s return to his very best this season has made the team even more confident. “Last year there were times when Tom wasn’t firing as well as he was used to. But this year he has been outstanding, not just for us, but for the Kerala State team as well. He was the best player in most of the tournaments he has played.”

Great depth

Tom, of course, is the pivot of the Kochi-based team, but what makes this team formidable is that it has depth. If somebody like the normally reliable E.K. Kishore Kumar is off colour during a game, as he was at Payyannur in the State inter-club championship recently, there is someone like P. Rohith to step in to score winners.

Then there are Vibin M. George, R. Rajeev and T.P Sayooj to unleash relentless smashes. “Setter Vimal P. Jacob, who has the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of B. Anil, and libero Kiran Philip too have done well for us this year,” says Sethumadhavan. “In Chennai, ONGC will be our main contender for the title. But, we have beaten them this season already.”

KSEB’s coach P.A. Joseph too is upbeat about his team’s chances in Chennai. “The girls have been playing superbly this season,” he says. “Except one game, we have won all that we have played so far.”

That one loss was to Southern Railway, the only team capable of stopping the Thiruvananthapuram-based club. “Yes, the Railway girls are quite strong, but we have beaten them twice already this season,” says Joseph. “We should not have too many problems against the other two teams, Mayors Club (Hyderabad) and St. Josephs’ College of Engineering (Chennai).”

KSEB coach confident

The coach’s confidence stems from the nearly flawless displays the team put up at the recent All-India and State-level tournaments, in which all the key players did well. When it comes to the all-round strength, KSEB is among the best in the country.

Girls like P.J. Jomol, one of the most delightful players to watch in Indian women’s volleyball at the moment, Tiji Raju, M.J. Alphonsa, M.P. Bijina, P.P. Reshma, P.V. Sheeba and the ever-dependable setter N. Sruthi Mol make KSEB a team to watch out for in any tournament.

“That Donna George is back in the side after injury gives us even more options,” says Joseph.

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