A grand double for Tamil Nadu

Published : Dec 22, 2001 00:00 IST


FOR long, despite having international spikers in its ranks, Tamil Nadu had to play the second fiddle. But in the Punjab National Games, luck smiled on Tamil Nadu teams. It won both the men's and women's titles.

Upsetting the defending champion Punjab, on their way to title triumph, the Tamil Nadu men made hay at the Guru Nanak Dev Stadium indoor complex. This win was long due for a bunch of aggressive but talented spikers, who settled for runner-up spot in the 1999 Imphal Games and Kozhikode Nationals.

The departure of National champion Kerala, in the men's league, was a shocking result. In the women's, National champion Andhra Pradesh was stopped at the semifinal stage - eventually settling for bronze medal. And it again proved that in volleyball, no team is invincible. There have been different winners, in both men's and women's sections, since the last Games and the Kozhikode Nationals.

The summit clash between Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu was a keenly contested one, compared to the contests witnessed in the earlier stages. The quality was high and competitiveness unmatched.

Quality players in Abhijit Bhattacharya, Y. Subba Rao and junior international Avinash Yadav had helped Uttar Pradesh wriggle out of the league phase. Uttar Pradesh became the last team to make it to the semifinals, edging past Services as the second best team behind Tamil Nadu in its group.

Then Uttar Pradesh won 30-28, 26-24, 25-23 against Andhra Pradesh in the semifinal.

In the final, however, it met its match in Tamil Nadu. International spiker Jobi Joseph, expert blocker M. S. Rajesh and setter Kapil Dev came good for Tamil Nadu at the crucial moments as Uttar Pradesh fought till the end.

It couldn't have been much closer. Tamil Nadu won the first set 25-23 and the second 26-24. UP missed its chances in the second set as it led 24-21 before Jobi and Rajesh did the damage. UP won the third set, but could not prevent Tamil Nadu from winning the gold. Defending champion Punjab could hardly satisfy the home crowd. It performed below expectations. The host team just snatched a set from Tamil Nadu.

Punjab got yet another chance to somewhat redeem its pride in front of the home crowd. Captain Ratan Lal and spiker Pritpal Singh starred in Punjab's win over Andhra Pradesh, champion of the first four editions of the National Games.

In contrast, the quality was poor in the women's game. All the four teams from the Southern States made it to the semifinals.

Tamil Nadu had no problems in outgunning Karnataka 25-20, 25-11, 25-12, while Kerala struggled a bit against Andhra Pradesh as its key player M. Sujatha was indisposed. Kerala won 25-11, 25-22, 25-18 to make it to the final.

In the final, libero Vincy George proved to be a big failure as she struggled against the smashes. Gisha Thomas and Binimol Thomas gave Tamil Nadu a good fight, but spiker R. Gayathiri, B. Hema Malini and Shiji Thomas did not allow much room.

Though the match went into four sets, Tamil Nadu looked hardly worried and won 25-15, 25-17, 16-25, 25-16.

The results:

Men: Final: Tamil Nadu beat Uttar Pradesh 25-23, 26-24, 23-25, 25-16. Third-place play-off: Punjab beat Andhra Pradesh 25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24. Semifinals: Uttar Pradesh beat Andhra Pradesh 30-28, 26-24, 25-23; Tamil Nadu beat Punjab 25-18, 25-16, 12-25, 25-18.

Women: Final: Tamil Nadu beat Kerala 25-15, 25-17, 16-25, 25-16. Third-place play-off: Andhra Pradesh beat Karnataka 25-21, 25-12, 19-25, 25-19. Semifinals: Tamil Nadu beat Karnataka 25-20, 25-11, 25-12; Kerala beat Andhra Pradesh 25-11, 25-22, 25-18.

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