VOLLEYBALL / Railways women overcome Kerala for sixth consecutive crown
Tamil Nadu showed its class to outwit Uttarakhand 25-17, 25-15, 25-14 in the final and recapture the men’s title in the 62nd National volleyball championships here on Sunday.
Railways women, who dropped their first set of the event, overcame a minor jolt to beat Kerala 25-17, 25-10, 23-25, 25-21 and emerge as the champions for the 29th time. This was Railways’ sixth consecutive National crown.
Tamil Nadu learned from its high-voltage five-set affair against Uttarakhand in the group stage and took the court with a sound game plan. After the tough encounter against Services in the semifinals, Tamil Nadu focused on its first passes apart from fine-tuning its serves. It applied pressure from the start and maintained a seven-point lead for most part of the match.
Setter M. Ukkarapandian, who plotted the moves and unleashed some precise serves, again turned out to be the key man for Tamil Nadu.
Naveen Raja Jacob proved lethal by adding more power and accuracy to his stinging serves and well-executed smashes. V. John Christopher made several surprise raids, while G.R. Vaishnav shone with his effective taps.
Tamil Nadu took the first set in no time and showed novelty in its combinations. The young duo of C. Jerome Vinith and G.S. Akhin, with some help from Ukkarapandian, built a tall wall along the net and defended skilfully to blunt the full-bloodied strikes of the Uttarakhand attackers.
The mounting pressure never let Uttarakhand settle down. Mandeep Singh and Lalit Kumar garnered some points through their trademark hits, but the team suffered because of the failure of its blockers.
Tamil Nadu, which got a semblance of a challenge at 9-8 in the second set, cruised to claim its first title after a gap of two years. Overall, it was the ninth crown for the team.
“We tried to focus on our own game without bothering about the opposition. The target was to pass and serve well, which we did perfectly,” said Tamil Nadu coach P. Sundaram.
Railways women sailed smoothly in the first two sets before conceding the third due to some errors. Kerala improved its passing and defence and gained from the fine blocks of Tiji Raju and P.V. Sheeba and the attacks of P.P. Reshma to give a hot chase to Railways.
However, the experienced Railways team, which was tied 10-10 with Kerala in the fourth set, had the wherewithal to overcome the odds.
Setter Terin Antony, ‘universal’ Minimol Abraham and Priyanka Bora and libero Priyanka Khedkar raised the bar to bag another title for their team.
Men: Final: Tamil Nadu bt Uttarakhand 25-17, 25-15, 25-14; Third place: Kerala bt Services 23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-17, 15-10.
Women: Final: Railways bt Kerala 25-17, 25-10, 23-25, 25-21; Third place: Tamil Nadu bt Haryana 26-24, 25-16, 25-21.
Individual awards: Men: Best attacker: Naveen Raja Jacob (TN); Best blocker: Navjit Singh (Utk); Best setter: M. Ukkarapandian (TN); Best universal: Mandeep Singh (Utk).
Women: Best attacker: Soumya V. (Rlys); Best blocker: Tiji Raju (Ker); Best setter: Terin Antony (Rlys); Best universal: Minimol Abraham (Rlys).