Railways, Rajasthan and Punjab men advance to quarters

Railways, Rajasthan, and Punjab from men’s Group A, and Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Services from Group B gained direct entry into the quarterfinals in terms of points aggregate

Volleyball Tamil Nadu

A. Santosh Varma (left) of Andhra Pradesh puts it past Delhi blockers in the 65th Senior National Volleyball championship at Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai.   -  M. Vedhan

Railways, Rajasthan, and Punjab from men’s Group A, and Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Services from Group B gained direct entry into the quarterfinals in terms of points aggregate in the Senior National Volleyball Championship being held at the Nehru indoor stadium here.

Himachal Pradesh beat Uttar Pradesh 3-1, and Andhra Pradesh beat Delhi 3-2 in the qualifiers to earn a slot each in the quarterfinals.

In the women’s category, Railways, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh qualified from Group A, while Kerala, Telangana, and Punjab progressed from group B. Uttar Pradesh beat Punjab 3-0, and West Bengal beat Rajasthan 3-0 in the qualifiers to book a last eight berth each.

Andhra Pradesh had entered the tournament with a decisive gameplan. Greatly influenced by its collective inexperience as a team, it had resolved to be at its most offensive, come what and who may. “We decided to go all out irrespective of the opponent and situation. That, I believe, is the only way we can win,” its coach Thulasi Reddy had said after his team’s loss to Tamil Nadu on the second day here.

The strategy finally kicked in, and worked when it mattered the most; in the qualifier — a privilege that the last-placed teams from Groups A and B were afforded to enter quarterfinals.

It’s not to say that Delhi acted a pushover. It held ground, resisted, and even gained ground before edged out.

It was neck and neck in the first set, 10-10 at one point, and 11-11 at the other. On one ocasion, when Delhi’s players spread out to the edges, and left target space for the opponent in the mid-court, Andhra promptly used it to go up 13-11. Even a reflexive Rajkumar, who went down in a jiffy to dig, couldn’t help Delhi’s case. Andhra Pradesh went 22-16 ahead, but failed to capitalise and claim the set as it went down 23-25.

Andhra dealt with well set up, full-blown attack for most part of the next two sets which it won 25-20 and 25-23.

For Delhi, Rajkumar and Shubham Tomar combined well at the net to consistently feed spiker Sunil Kumar with good balls as it won the fourth set and dragged the match into the fifth set. But Andhra managed to clinch it 22-20.

Points table: Men: Group A: Railways (8); Rajasthan (6); Punjab (3); Uttar Pradesh (1); Group B: Kerala (8); Tamil Nadu (4); Services (4); Andhra Pradesh (2); Women: Group A: Railways (9); Maharashtra (6); Andhra Pradesh (3); West Bengal (0); Group B: Kerala (12); Telangana (9); Tamil Nadu (2); Punjab (1).

The results (Qualifiers for quarterfinals): Men: Andhra Pradesh bt Delhi 23-25, 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 22-20; Himachal Pradesh bt Uttar Pradesh 25-21, 25-22, 19-25, 25-21;

Women: Uttar Pradesh bt Punjab 25-22, 25-18, 28-26; West Bengal bt Rajasthan 25-18, 25-18, 25-14.