Despite leaving out Vibin George and Rithesh - the two most senior players- the Kerala men's volleyball team still looks competitive.
On a hat-trick this time, the seven-time champion played a compact game to outwit Karnataka 25-18, 25-20, 25-21 to start its Group-A match on a bright note in the Senior National volleyball championships at the Nehru Indoor Stadium on Thursday.
Earlier, Tamil Nadu women went down pretty tamely to West Bengal 25-23, 24-26, 25-14, 25-11 in a Group A contest.
Though each set was fast-paced and pretty even, Kerala upped the ante when it really mattered the most in the men's tie.
Attacker G.S. Akhin and blocker Sarang Santhilal were at their best and deserve all the credit for pulling the team through tough situations.
The first set was close at one point in time when Karnataka trailed by a point (15-16) and in the second (16-17), but as the match entered the closing stages of each set, Karnataka couldn’t rise to the occasion.
As its coach K.R. Lakshmi Narayan, said after the match, the team really missed the services of Anup D Costa, who had met with an accident prior to the event.
The third set was when Karnataka played its best with central blockers A. Karthik and Ashwal Rai attacking and blocking with conviction. At 18-19, Karnataka slipped and Kerala accelerated with G.S. Akhin and Ajith Lal smashing with impunity.
Tamil Nadu women faltered in the first set especially after leading for the major part. Leading 16-13 and 19-16, the host failed to apply itself. Though it saved two set points, it was the match that one can argue that it frittered away.
Though it won the second, it failed to capitalise on the momentum. For West Bengal, it was Puja Dalui and Aneena Shaji who took the match away from Tamil Nadu.
With setter Juhi Shaw’s guidance, Puja and Aneena blocked and smashed their way to success. One felt that Tamil Nadu really lacked a good attacker to finish points, which its opponent did.
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