U.P. struggles to register wins

HUVINA HADIGALI May 22. Uttar Pradesh girls looked well equipped but failed to convert their superiority into straight-set victories against Pondicherry and Kerala in the 11th mini National volleyball championships, sponsored by Rangabharathi, at the GBR College courts here late on Wednesday.

U.P. had to dig into its reserves to pull it off against an inspired Pondicherry at 21-25, 25-18, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9 in a Group D encounter. After having scored a 25-22, 25-22, 12-25, 25-23 win over Kerala, U.P. took the top position in the group.

Coach Ashtha Misra looked nervy and it seemed to have rubbed on the girls as well, as the team, after taking off well, just failed to get going against Pondicherry.

Farah Zafar as setter did well in patches, more off failing in her bid to `drop' the ball into yawning gaps in the rival defence. Neelam Tomar and Priyanka Choudhary did manage to pierce the defence with smashes that lacked conviction.

Pondicherry however displayed grit in good measure and looked undaunted against its fancied opponent. Having clinched the first set, Pondicherry stumbled a wee bit in the second and third but did regroup to win the fourth to tie the match and force a decider.

With Bharathi and Vasumahi combining well, the southern girls did match U.P. point for point until a spate of mistakes in the first pass and at the net ended their challenge in a match that lasted just short of two hours.

Host Karnataka boys and girls stormed into the last eight stage. The boys, with a packed stadium hooting for every point, stuttered for a while before brushing aside the challenge from Madhya Pradesh at 25-19, 25-19, 16-25, 25-23 for an all win record in Group B.

The dependable Ajay and Ashok, who have had a good outing so far, fumbled in the third set thus allowing M.P. into the match.

But fortunately for the host the slumber lasted only for a brief spell as Ajay firing well, and coupled with some telling serves, helped his team cruise through.

The Karnataka girls looked far from impressive but nevertheless proved far too superior to Madhya Pradesh. Karnataka, which won 25-17, 25-18, 25-12, along with Haryana looks set to make the last eight stage.

The Tamil Nadu boys just could not get going on Thursday morning and stumbled to a straight-set loss to Haryana, which topped Group C, despite being reduced to six players.

Coach Balwan Singh looked mighty pleased with the performance of his boys, who, led by Sandeep and Jabarjot Singh, outplayed Tamil Nadu in all departments to win 25-16, 27-25, 25-17 in 58 minutes.

Tamil Nadu failed to combine and its play at the net and the backline defence was exposed to the hilt as Haryana fired from all cylinders.

Only in a brief spell in the second set, when Arul Sharma and Mayavan found their bearings, did TN look making a match of it. The Tamil Nadu boys however did recover well in the evening session to post a comfortable 25-11, 25-14, 25-8 win over Maharashtra and finish second best in the Group. Dhanashekar, Mayavan and Shankar Jose found their bearings to put up an impressive display.

The Tamil Nadu girls proved a trifle too good against A.P. for a 25-21, 25-10, 25-10 victory which came about in 42 minutes in a girls Group C match.

Late on Wednesday night, Maharashtra girls snatched a thrilling 24-26, 22-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-11 win over Andhra Pradesh in a match that saw both teams resort to defensive tactics.

The results:

Boys: Group A: Manipur bt J & K 25-23, 25-22, 25-14; Assam bt Rajasthan 25-10, 25-14, 25-16. Group B: Karnataka bt M.P. 25-19, 25-19, 16-25, 25-23; Pondicherry bt Chhattisgarh 25-20, 25-14, 25-21. Group C: Haryana bt TN 25-16, 27-25, 25-17; Tamil Nadu bt Maharashtra 25-11, 25-14, 25-8; Group D: Kerala bt Goa 2-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-23; West Bengal bt A.P. 25-7, 25-17, 25-20.

Girls: Group A: Rajasthan bt Goa 25-7, 25-13, 25-16. Group B: Karnataka bt M.P. 25-17, 25-18, 25-12. Group C: Maharashtra bt AP 24-26, 22-25, 25-19, 26-24, 15-11; TN bt AP 25-21, 25-10, 25-10. Group D: U.P. bt Kerala 25-22, 25-22, 12-25, 25-23; U.P. bt Pondicherry 21-25, 25-18, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9.

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