Customs and Central Excise 1 claims title

CUSTOMS and Central Excise 1 represented by Sreesh and Sunilkumar and Andhra Pradesh 1, comprising G. Ramadevi and C. A. Evangelina Paul won the men's and women's titles respectively in the seventh National Beach Volleyball Championship conducted by Pearl City Beach Volleyball Club in Tuticorin recently.

G. VENUGOPAL

CUSTOMS and Central Excise 1 represented by Sreesh and Sunilkumar and Andhra Pradesh 1, comprising G. Ramadevi and C. A. Evangelina Paul won the men's and women's titles respectively in the seventh National Beach Volleyball Championship conducted by Pearl City Beach Volleyball Club in Tuticorin recently.

The Customs and Central Excise 1 team _ Sreesh (left) and Sunilkumar _ won the men's title.-

Beach Volleyball is not popular in many of the states and hence, the states in which the game is popular were allowed to enter more than one team. As such Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu entered five teams each in men's section and three each in women's section. Chhatisgarh fielded three teams in men's section, Customs and Central Excise and State Bank of India, two each in men's section. Goa fielded two teams in each section.

On the whole, there were 34 entries in men's section and 15 in women's section. Eight teams were directly seeded into the men's superleague while the other 26 teams played a qualifying league in eight groups. The top team from each group from the qualifying league joined the seeded teams and these 16 teams were divided into four groups of four teams for the superleague. Two top teams from each group in superleague qualified for the knock-out quarter-finals.

In the women's section, there were 15 entries and these teams were divided into four groups for the league phase and two top teams from each group qualified for the knock-out quarter-finals.

State Bank of India 1 and Andhra Pradesh 4 from Group `A', Andhra Pradesh 1 and Tamil Nadu 1 from Group `B', Customs and Central Excise 1 and Goa 2 from Group `C' and Andhra Pradesh 3 and Goa 1 from Group `D' qualified for the men's quarter-finals from the superleague.

From these eight teams, the defending champion State Bank of India 1, Customs and Central Excise 1, Andhra Pradesh 1 and Andhra Pradesh 3 qualified for the semi-finals.

In both the semi-finals, Andhra Pradesh men put up stiff fight and went down fighting taking the game to the full distance. In the first semi-final, Customs and Central Excise 1 beat Andhra Pradesh 1 represented by Mohamed Jameeludin and P. Krishna Reddy 17-21, 21-18, 15-13 and in the second semi-final State Bank of India 1 beat Andhra Pradesh 3 represented by A.Rajkumar and Raveender Reddy 21-19, 9-21, 15-13.

The final turned out to be the best as these pairs had already met in the final of the last Nationals in Goa, and also in the finals of the recent National Games in Hyderabad. In both the finals State Bank of India pair Pradeep John and P. Mohan triumphed. But it was a different story in this championship. The Customs and Central Excise pair of P. P. Sunilkumar and T. K. Sreesh played with determination and beat the State Bank of India pair 17-21, 21-19, 15-13 in a close final for a sweet revenge.

On the day's game, Customs and Central Excise deserved the victory every bit. Sunilkumar and Sreesh played a tactical and waiting game mixing caution with aggression. While Sunilkumar excelled in spiking, Sreesh came up with deft placements. The SBI pair — Mohan and Pradeep John, though more aggressive at times failed at crucial moments.

Andhra Pradesh 1 represented by G. Ramadevi (left) and Evangelina Paul, winners of the women's final.-

Customs and Central Excise made a good start and led 11-9 in the first set before losing at 17-21. But in the second, Customs and Central Excise had a good lead of 17-12 but the SBI pair fought back and reduced the lead to 18-17 and it seemed as though they would go through. But it was not to be so as Sreesh and Sunilkumar clinched the set at 21-19. Encouraged by this success, Customs and Central Excise went on to lead 12-7 in the decider but SBI was not finished, as it levelled 12-all and there was great tension and excitement among the players and also a good holiday crowd turned out. However, Sunilkumar and Sreesh had the final say and clinched the issue at 15-13 for the title.

Jose Verghese, Coach of the Customs and Central Excise team, who was elated at the success of the team said "Customs and Central Excise team which won the Departmental National Volleyball Championship at Nagercoil in 1994 was allowed to take part in the World Law Enforcement Officers meets at Melbourne (Australia), Kelgari (Canada) and Topno (Sweden) and in all these meets our team finished in the medal bracket and brought glory to the country and also became the No. 2 Departmental team in the world. Now our team has become the National champion and we do hope that our team, if allowed to participate in the World Law Enforcement Officers meet, certainly would bring laurels to the country."

In the women's section AP 1 and TN 3 from Group `A', TN 1 and Goa 2 from Group `B', AP 2, and a wild card from Group `C', Goa 1 and TN 2 from Group `D' qualified for the quarter-finals from the league phase.

All the four quarter-finals were one sided and AP 1, Goa 2 represented by Milagrina Mascarenhas and Lavina Rodrigues, TN 2 represented by S. Devi and Selvakumari and TN 1 consisting of R. Jayashree and L. Kamakoti qualified for the semi-finals.

There was not much of a fight in both the semi-finals too and AP 1 and TN 1 marched on to the finals.

In the final, AP 1's Ramadevi and Evangelina Paul were too good for Tamil Nadu 1, though Kamakoti, a member of the Tamil Nadu team, which won the title last year, put up resistance in spells. AP 1 won at 21-9, 21-7.

This Pearl City is the volleyball nursery of South. It has produced many State players in volleyball and the State Bank of India pair of Mohan and Pradeep John are also from this place. With this championship, Beach Volleyball has come to stay in Tuticorin and for this, kudos should go to the Pearl City Beach Volleyball Club President, P.S.S.G. Thivakar and his band of men and the Tuticorin Port Sports Council, under whose patronage the championship was conducted.

The results:

Men's final: Customs and Central Excise 1 (Sunilkumar / Sreesh) bt State Bank of India 1 (Mohan/Pradeep John) 17-21, 21-19, 15-13. Third place: Andhra Pradesh 3 (A. Rajkumar / Raveendra Reddy) w/o A.P 1 (Md. Jamaludin / P. Krishna Reddy). Semi-finals: Customs and Central Excise 1 bt AP 1 17-21, 21-18, 15-13; State Bank of India 1 bt AP 3 21-19, 9-21, 15-13. Quarter-finals: SBI 1 bt Goa 2 (Surya Sawant / Vinodh Shrookar) 29-19, 21-10; AP 3 bt Tamil Nadu 1 (A.M. Balaji /Ramamurthy) 21-14, 21-17; Customs and C.E 1 bt AP 4 (Abdul Khalik / Syed Mustafa) 21-15, 21-15; AP 1 bt Goa 1 (Ravi Shrodkar/ Savi Rodrigues) 21-15, 19-21, 15-12.

Women's final: AP 1 (G. Ramadevi/Evangelina Paul) bt TN 1 (R.Jayashree/Kamakoti) 21-9, 21-7. Third place: TN 2 (Devi / S.Selvakumari) bt Goa 2 (Milagrina, M./Lavina Rodrigues) 21-13, 21-10. Semi-finals: AP 1 bt Goa 2 21-3, 21-7; TN 1 bt TN 2 21-5, 21-17. Quarter-finals: AP 1 bt Wild card (M. P. Murugeswari / Chandra) 21-19, 21-8; Goa 2 bt Goa 1 (Sonali Bhagat / Beula Sebastin) 21-15, 21-15; TN 2 bt AP2 (Kanaga Mahalakshmi / Nalini) 21-17, 21-11; TN 1 bt TN 3 (Jasleem / Hemavathy) 21-4, 21-12.