Jerome propels Kerala past TN

Railways women thumped Maharashtra.

In the second women’s semifinal, defending champion Railways breezed past Maharashtra 25-8, 25-14, 25-18.   -  S. Ramesh Kurup

A Tamil Nadu supporter watching C. Jerome Vinith smashing away winners imperiously at the Calicut Trade Centre on Tuesday would have wished if he had played for the State of his origin, and not Kerala.

Jerome was indeed the biggest difference between the two sides in a tightly contested men’s semifinal at the 66th senior National championship, but the volleyball fans in Tamil Nadu should be proud of the way the young men played against a rival that was more experienced and had won the title last year. And Kerala setter A. Muthuswamy is also from Tamil Nadu.

Under the inspiring captaincy of Jerome, Kerala won 25-22, 30-28, 25-22 to set up a fascinating final with Railways, whose biggest weapon S. Prabagaran, too, is from Tamil Nadu. It will be the fourth straight time the two powerhouses will be coming face to face for the title.

The second men’s semifinal attracted the biggest crowd of the tournament — there were more than 10,000 people screaming virtually non-stop for Kerala — and they certainly got their money’s worth. C. Ajith Lal, another favourite with the spectators, was in fine form with his trademark thundering smashes.

The others in the Kerala team, too, contributed, with G. Akhin, P. Rohith, Vibin M. George and C.K. Ratheesh all playing their hearts out. And they had to. Anything less would have been disastrous against Tamil Nadu, which was led from the front by A. Anand Raj. He received excellent support from the likes of K. Praveen Kumar, G.R. Vaishnav, Shelton Moses and T. Sathriyan.

In the second women’s semifinal, defending champion Railways was expected to breeze past Maharashtra. And it did. It was probably the most authoritative display by a team that has been too strong for its rivals so far. If the stylish Nirmal Tanwar had been its star performer thus far, Minimol Abraham was the standout player this day, with her never-ending array of smashes.

Nirmal, too, played her part; so did skipper Anushree Ghosh, setter Devika Devarajan, M.S. Poornima and Priyanka Bora. As for the Maharashtra women, it was an eminently forgettable outing.

With the host playing both the finals, it should be another full house on Wednesday.

The results (semifinals):

Men: Kerala bt Tamil Nadu 25-22, 30-28, 25-22.

Women: Railways bt Maharashtra 25-8, 25-14, 25-18.