Sr. National Volleyball: Railways thrashes Delhi; Kerala women beat Haryana

Railways, the defending champion, and Kerala's women's teams beat Delhi and Haryana in straight sets.

Aswathi Raveendran (blue Jersey) of Kerala during the match against Haryana.   -  R. Ragu

To say that the Indian Railways women’s team is superior to others would be an understatement. Comprising nine Internationals (junior & senior), the 10-time [defending] champion thrashed Delhi 25-13, 25-15, 25-11 to reach the semifinals of the Senior men’s National Volleyball Championship here on Monday. So far, Railways has won a staggering 33 titles.

Kerala, too, reached the women’s last-four in style with a 25-12, 25-16, 25-12 victory over Haryana. The Kerala-Haryana contest was a tad better, with the latter providing a semblance of a fight in the second set. However, the might of the title contender was all too pervasive, with Anju Balakrishnan and Soorya providing thrust in attack.

Delhi appeared to be a novice unit in front of the behemoth. None of its players looked like taking on the champion team — player for player. In terms of height and skill, Delhi was sub-par. Most of the rallies turned out to be very short, with Universals Minimol Abraham and Poornima finishing the points with a spike, or Angel Joseph and Anusri Ghosh blocking whatever attack Delhi could come up with. 

Railways didn’t let its guard down in any of the three sets, raking up a 14-7 in the first, 18-9 in the third and 16-7 in the third.  

To a question as to when will Railways’ domination end, Vaishali Phadtare, the chief coach replied: "Only when other departments start giving jobs." 

L. M. Manoj, who was brilliant throughout, fittingly put the finishing touch with a calculated spike as Tamil Nadu (TN) produced a fine performance to defeat Services 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20 in the men's quarterfinals.

Certainly, it was Manoj's standout show that carried the host. The 21-year-old was exceptional in attack and with his blocking, along with the veteran G. R. Vaishnav. Veteran setter Ukrapandian showed his experience setting it up perfectly for Manoj, Vaishnav and Naveen Raja Jacob to finish points.

Naveen, though erratic with his smashes and services, won several points at crucial junctures in the third and fourth sets.

Pankaj Singh took the game away from TN in the second set with his fantastic smashes. Almost every attack won his team points, but later on he was sufficiently screened by Manoj and Vaishnav.

One of the major problems for Tamil Nadu has been its numerous service errors in the Nationals. Universal Ashwin Raj, attacker Naveen and to an extent Ukrapandian need to cut down their service errors if TN hopes to progress, and retain the title.

The results (Quarterfinals)

Men: Kerala bt AP 25-14, 25-17, 25-12; TN bt Services 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20

Women: Railways bt Delhi 25-13, 25-15, 25-11; Kerala bt Haryana 25-12, 25-16, 25-12