Services set off to a sound start, lost the plot along the way, but recouped to victory 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 15-25, 15-10 in the Federation Cup volleyball tournament, men’s group B match, at the Cosmopolitan Club court, on Thursday morning.
The squad, comprising personnel from the armed forces, commandeered the first set, leading from start to finish. Gone was that authority in the second, despite some splendid displays in offence and defence.
Devender fell prostrate on the floor to effect a ‘pancake’, when a ‘dig’ wasn’t possible. So did Fasil tower like a rock as a central blocker, even when doubling up as rapidly-striking spiker. Southpaw Naveen Kumar packed punch in his serves, squeezing out free balls from across the net, which the attackers pounded with alacrity.
Sivarajan S.R. and Niyaz Abdul Salam were underutilised, as was Aman Kumar for Haryana. The former duo made its presence felt, in the concluding set though. Services raised the bar even when fielding virtually its second string, which turned out in no way inferior to its starting six.
With Naveen exhausted, perhaps, after four sets, left-handed Manu K.K. matched his senior counterpart, with his stinging jump serves and searing smashes.
After conceding two sets, down 23-24 in the fourth, and teetering on the brink of defeat, Karnataka sprang back 27-25, forcing a decider on Tamil Nadu, in its group A men’s match, in the evening.
The former failed to make the most of that return, handing Tamil Nadu a 21-25, 27-25, 25-21, 25-27, 15-12 victory. Botched serves, Karnataka’s bugbear came back to haunt it, as it gifted away three points, a fifth of the total, in the concluding set.
Tamil Nadu’s G.R. Vaishnav, with his pointed spiking down the middle, and Surya Prakash, declared best player of the match, kept the scoreboard ticking. Libero B. Midhun Kumar, with his acrobatic saves, was equally adept with court coverage, reaching the spot, where it ran the risk of the ball hitting the ground.
In the day’s last fixture, Indian Railways stopped Association of Indian Universities (AIU) in its tracks 25-20, 25-16, 26-24, in men’s group B. The lacunae of serves, going long and wide, plagued the latter. It was made up for, to some extent, by its hitters deftly, dodging the Railway blockers. The student side’s errors, however, mounted, costing it the first set 20-25.
The varsities lads wrested the lead early, in the second, firing winners frequently, from the frontline, through captain T. Sathriyan, Gibin Sabestian and M.A. Abhilash. The railmen restored parity at 19 and 20, and wrapped up the set 26-24.
In the third, Railways was in rampaging form, mop-topped K. Ragul, skipper Manu Joseph and Rohit Rana, pounding the rival half at regular intervals.
Men: Group A: TN bt Karnataka 21-25, 27-25, 25-21, 25-27, 15-12; Kerala bt TN 25-19, 25-20, 25-20. B: Services bt Haryana 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 15-25, 15-10; Indian Railways bt AIU 25-20, 26-24, 25-16.
Women: Kerala bt TN 25-17, 25-20, 25-20.