Host Tamil Nadu beat Andhra Pradesh 19-25, 22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 15-13 in a Group-B match on day two of the Senior National volleyball championship at the Nehru indoor stadium here.
After it lost the first set 19-25, and let Andhra Pradesh take lead early in the second as well, Tamil Nadu, desperate to not lose, held on, and narrowed the gap from 4-7 to 6-7.
But Andhra shrugged the surge off, and advanced to 10-7, R. Rajasekar spiking twice in the three points. It laid claim to three more points from there, with Tamil Nadu stranded on seven — P. Prasant blocked Tamil Nadu captain S. Karthik’s drive for the first point, Rajasekar’s serve tripped off the top of the net, deceiving the opposition, for the second, and R. Krishnam Raju blocked again for the third.
At this point, it was fairly evident that the Andhra Pradesh blockers P. Prasant, Krishnam Raju, and P. Ameer Khan were in fine form.
Tamil Nadu rallied to 12-15 from there, but there was no getting close, let alone getting past Andhra as it went ahead to 20-16. A combined block by Prasant and T. Naresh — they leapt up, close to each other — of a smash by Naveen Raja Jacob was a highlight of the phase. The longest rally of the set, when Andhra was 20-19 up ended in Tamil Nadu’s favour, courtesy a Naveen Raja spike.
There were two striking plays in the rally — Tamil Nadu’s D. Selva Prabhu swiftly went to the ground to dig a Krishnam Raju spike, and Andhra’s V. Murali Mohan fell aside in reflex to dig Naveen Raja’s spike one-handed.
Tamil Nadu got lucky when it was down at 21-23 as Andhra’s Ameer Khan hit his service out of the court. It didn’t get any lucky from there as Andhra claimed the set 25-22 from thereon.
Luck again favoured Tamil Nadu twice in the third set. Once when the score was 6-all, from 3-all, as Andhra captain V. Subba Rao netted his serve. And secondly, when the scoreline had further been dragged to 9-all, Naresh jumped and spiked the ball out of the court. Tamil Nadu managed to take the set 25-22.
There were two moments of note in the fourth set that Tamil Nadu won 25-18. First was when Subba Rao’s spike was too good for Tamil Nadu’s S. Aswin, who went to the ground and rolled over in his failed attempt to dig it. Second was when Tamil Nadu’s K. Praveen Kumar, set up by Aswin, spiked the ball for it to sneak in amid three jumping blockers — it went in the slight gap between Andhra’s Prasant and Ameer Khan on one side, and K. Rajesh on the other.
In the all-resolving fifth set, when the score was level at 12-12, Andhra’s Naresh spike the ball out of the court for Tamil Nadu to go one-up. But then, Tamil Nadu’s Shelton Moses blocked Prasant’s drive soon after for it to spill out of the court as Andhra drew level 13-13. Tamil Nadu was the first to get to 15 points from there and wrap the match with a 3-2 win.
Andhra Pradesh coach M. Thulasi Reddy said it hurt to lose the match from two sets up. “It does hurt to lose like this, but then, we have an inexperienced side and our plan has been to go all out and play aggressively all the time irrespective of the situation. That, I believe, is the only way we can win,” he said.
Men: Group A: Indian Railways bt Uttar Pradesh 25-16, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20; Rajasthan bt Punjab 17-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-18; Kerala bt Services 25-19, 25-21, 29-27. Group B: Tamil Nadu bt Andhra Pradesh 19-25, 22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 15-13.
Women: Group A: Indian Railways bt Andhra Pradesh 25-16, 25-16, 25-8; Maharashtra bt West Bengal 25-21, 29-27, 25-15; Kerala bt Telangana 25-13, 25-13, 25-12; Tamil Nadu bt Punjab 18-25, 20-25, 25-18, 25-9, 15-10.