On a day when the strongest teams at the senior National volleyball championship took a day off – they had already booked their quarterfinal berths – it was left to the likes of Haryana and Karnataka to entertain the passionate crowd at the Calicut Trade Centre. And they did that, as their men's and women's teams, between them, took all the four slots that were up for grabs.
Only one match went beyond the third set, and that too because the Haryana women made far too many unforced errors against Andhra. After dropping the first set, Haryana came strongly back to win 21-25, 25-13, 25-14, 25-12.
The Haryana men were far more ruthless against a fighting Himachal Pradesh. Skipper Sube Singh, Sohan Kumar, Rohit Kumar and Shubham Chaudhary came up with relentless smashes to smother Himachal. Setter Aman Kumar proved an ideal foil for them.
Himachal may have been up against a more powerful and taller rival, but it did succeeding in putting up a good challenge. With fine efforts from the likes of Raman Kumar and Anil Sharma, it ensured that Haryana could never relax during its 25-18, 25-18, 25-21 win.
A little later, Karnataka's men's team put up another splendid display to overcome Rajasthan 25-20, 25-17, 25-17. Earlier, its women defeated Uttar Pradesh 25-16, 25-17, 25-8 in a far less engrossing encounter. For Karnataka, B.P. Babitha and Anitha V. Patil impressed with their smashes.
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The results (pre-quarterfinals):
Men: Haryana bt Himachal Pradesh 25-18, 25-18, 25-21; Karnataka bt Rajasthan 25-20, 25-17, 25-17.
Women: Karnataka bt Uttar Pradesh 25-16, 25-17, 25-8; Haryana bt Andhra 21-25, 25-13, 25-14, 25-12.
Friday's results (preliminary league): Pool B: Railways bt Tamil Nadu 25-21, 18-25, 25-22, 25-22; Services bt Himachal Pradesh 25-19, 25-12, 21-25, 25-19.
Women: Pool B: Kerala bt Maharashtra 25-12, 25-19, 25-11.
Quarterfinal line-up: Men: Kerala v Haryana; Tamil Nadu v Andhra; Punjab v Services; Railways v Karnataka.
Women: Railways v Karnataka; Maharashtra v Bengal; Tamil Nadu v Telengana; Kerala v Haryana.