Rajasthan men make the quarterfinals

  • Kamesh Srinivasan
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VOLLEYBALL / Score a spectacular victory over Karnataka

Andhra Pradesh's T. Naresh (right) smashes the ball past the Haryana blockers in thepre-quarterfinals on Saturday.— PHOTO: Rohit Jain Paras
Andhra Pradesh's T. Naresh (right) smashes the ball past the Haryana blockers in thepre-quarterfinals on Saturday.— PHOTO: Rohit Jain Paras

It was as good as the final or that was how the crowd treated the contest. The atmosphere was electric, quite understandable as host Rajasthan was fighting at its best, with the spectators cheering to their hearts content.

Actually the final was three days away, as former champions Rajasthan men made the quarterfinals with a spectacular 20-25, 22-25, 25-22, 29-27, 16-14 victory over Karnataka in the 61st National volleyball championship at the Sawai Man Singh Indoor Stadium here on Saturday.

When Karnataka put the ball out on Rajasthan’s match-point, the whole crowd got into the court to congratulate the players. Karnataka had missed a match-point at 14-13 in the decider and it was a brash attempt by A. Sujith that had set up the match-point for Rajasthan.

Yet, there was no denying the fabulous performance of Rajasthan, which stood the test brilliantly against a high quality team which was a bit unlucky to finish fourth in Group ‘B’ after having tied with Uttarakhand and Services on the same points. Lawmeet Katariya, Pramod Kumar Jakhar, Sawan and Suresh Kumar played a big role in Rajasthan’s resurgence after Karnataka had asserted itself in winning the first two sets.

T. D. Ravikumar was brilliant for Karnataka and he kept smashing on the last point before he missed the side line with the last attempt.

It would not have mattered even if he had made the line, as the crowd pounced on to the court, even as the match officials made a quick exit from their positions. At the change of court in the decider, Karnataka was ahead 8-5, but full marks to Rajasthan for staying confident to live and fight another day.

Fight back

After losing the first two sets, it was indeed a dramatic fight back by Rajasthan, which was cheered lustily by a large gathering that was whistling and dancing with considerable delight as the match progressed in the host’s favour. After having tackled a tough match against Delhi earlier in the morning in the lower league play-off, it was a commendable exercise by Rajasthan to be at its energetic best against an opponent which had tamed last year’s runner-up Uttarakhand in the league.

What stood out was Rajasthan’s ability to handle a tricky climax in the fourth set, but it made sure that its opponent did not get a match-point, even as it stayed in the fight, by converting its sixth set point.

The Haryana men were teased a bit as they squandered two game points in the first set, but pulled through strongly thereafter against a resurgent Andhra Pradesh in four sets, to set up a quarterfinal against Punjab, the topper of Group ‘B’. Skipper Sajay Kumar was able to pull his weight for Haryana on crucial points.

In the women’s section, Haryana women humbled Karnataka to earn the honour of challenging the topper of Group ‘B’, Kerala.

The energy of the Haryana team had to be commended as the team first beat Punjab in a tough encounter, earlier in the day before asserting themselves against the team that had finished fourth in Group ‘A’.

The results: Men: Pre-quarterfinals: Haryana bt Andhra Pradesh 25-27, 25-16, 25-20, 25-23. Lower league play-off: Andhra Pradesh bt Uttar Pradesh 25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 25-19; Rajasthan bt Delhi 26-24, 26-24, 24-26, 25-15.

Women: Pre-quarterfinals: Haryana bt Karnataka 25-11, 26-24, 25-17; West Bengal bt Delhi 25-21, 25-17, 25-11. Lower league play-off: Haryana bt Punjab 26-28, 25-9, 25-12, 25-20; Delhi bt Chandigarh 25-14, 25-1, 25-22.

Quarterfinals line-up: Men: Tamil Nadu vs Rajasthan; Punjab vs Haryana; Kerala vs Services; Uttarakhand vs Railways. Women: Railways vs West Bengal; Kerala vs Haryana; Tamil Nadu vs U.P.; HP vs AP.

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