National Volleyball: Railways aim for for hat-trick of titles

Railways beat Punjab 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 25-23 to enter the men’s final in the senior National volleyball championship at the Nehru indoor stadium here. Should it win the title on Friday, it will complete a three-peat.

Railways men’s team coach Aboobacker had termed Punjab the biggest threat, but it only managed to claim just one set.   -  R. Ragu

Railways beat Punjab 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 25-23 to enter the men’s final in the senior National volleyball championship at the Nehru indoor stadium here. Should it win the title on Friday, it will complete a three-peat.

Railways men’s team coach Aboobacker had termed Punjab the biggest threat, but it only managed to claim just one set.

Briefly after the start, Railways was 10-6 up in the first set.

It was evident in patches that Punjab players suffered from a communication lapse. For instance, Sandeep Singh set a ball up for Balwinder Singh to approach and whack, but the latter’s delayed response meant that he merely fisted it up for Hardeep Singh to hurriedly hit it across. Before they could snap out of the remiss, Railways spiked and took the point to go 11-6 up.

There was an interesting aspect to Punjab’s play. When to spike, they tended to run in from the back, and across, all of a sudden, thereby attempting to catch the opponents by surprise. Gurinder Singh rushed ahead, diagonally from left to right, and spiked the ball past two blockers who were in descent from their pre-mature jump for Punjab to get to 7-14.

It took two points immediately after, the first of which was from a joint-block of M. Satish Kumar’s spike by Hardeep Singh and Rajvir Singh.

Interestingly, it employed the tactic of sudden rush-in for blocking as well. Like, when Railways’ P. Prabakaran spiked, Sandeep Singh ran in to block from behind, from the right to left, but ended up netting it then for Railways to go 19-11 ahead.

Railways, from there, advanced to 21-13, 22-16, and closed the set 25-17.

The second set initially saw both teams block twice each for 2-2, which was dragged to 5-5 from there.

Punjab’s Hardeep Singh tricked the opposition to commit to a direction, and placed it elsewhere in a flash for it to make it 9-10.

At 14-14, Railways captain Karan Chaudhary jumped, and got the ball to drop across, close to the net, as Hardeep Singh, seemingly expecting the ball to be bashed across, was caught unawares and committed a double-touch.

Punjab players, eager to draw level at 16-17 down, covered the forecourt and left the back-court unmanned where Railways’ Karan Chaudhary promptly spiked. Punjab later reduced the deficit from 20-23 to 22-23 but Railways took the set 25-23 eventually.

The teams were head and head at 6-6, 9-9, 17-17, and 21-21 in the third set.

Punjab laid claim to the next two points to pull ahead to 23-21, courtesy two successful blocks. The first was a joint-block by Rajvir Singh and Gagandeep Singh when Railways’ Manu Joseph spiked, and the second was by Satinder Singh. It won the set 25-22.

The fourth set, with Railways looking to close the match out, and Punjab to take it to the fifth, featured the longest rally of the match until Punjab’s Gurinder Singh hit the ball out of the court to end it for 18-18.

The scoreline was dragged to 23-23, when Railways’ S. Prabagaran spiked across to an open back-court and the riveted audience erupted. They erupted again as the Railways players revelled after clinching the set 25-23.

Railways women entered the final too, with a 25-12, 25-12, 25-10 win over Andhra Pradesh and will also look to complete a hat-trick of titles on Friday.

Tamil Nadu men, meanwhile, went 25-19, 19-25, 23-25, 16-25 down to Kerala.

The results (semifinals): Men: Railways bt Punjab 25-17, 25-23, 22-25, 25-23; Kerala bt Tamil Nadu 19-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-16. Women: Railways bt Andhra Pradesh 25-12, 25-12, 25-10; Kerala bt Maharashtra 25-18, 21-25, 25-21, 25-14.