Volleyball National: Kerala pummels Railways

Railways missed two of its key players in S. Prabhagaran and skipper Karan Choudhary but it would be a remiss to deny Kerala the accolades. Its centre blocker G. S. Akhin was in roaring form and in the supremely talented Jerome Vinith Kerala had the ability to attack from all parts of the court.

Kerala's (orange) defence was water-tight throughout the match.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Kerala made its title credentials all-the-more known by pummelling defending champion Railways 25-20, 25-12, 25-22 in a Group ‘A’ match on day four of the 64th Senior National Volleyball Championship at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Tuesday.

Railways missed two of its key players in S. Prabhagaran (attacker) and skipper Karan Choudhary (blocker) but it would be a remiss to deny Kerala the accolades. Its centre blocker G. S. Akhin was in roaring form and in the supremely talented Jerome Vinith Kerala had the ability to attack from all parts of the court.

Right from the outset, Kerala’s defence was water-tight. Railways did take a slender lead to 8-6 but lost five points on the trot – chiefly owing to excellent blocking by Akhin and Vibin George. Coupled with Vinith’s attacking thrust it was enough to clinch the set.

The second set was won in a scamper. Vinith didn’t put a single foot wrong. Among all spikes his seemed the most powerful and lethal. The point difference kept widening till Kerala took the set for the loss of just 12 points.

Railways looked more coherent in the third. It marginally tightened its defence even as Manu Joseph, a key attacker, got his act together. Still Vinith and Co. found a way out and kept Kerala in it.

The set was on a knife’s edge till 17-17, when, yet again, Akhin executed two vital blocks. It was a lead which Kerala was in no mood to let go off. The match was done and dusted in 70 minutes.

“We missed two of our key players to injury. That upset our rhythm,” said Railways coach Naresh Kumar. “We didn’t want to risk them before the quarterfinals. But Kerala played very well. They were good in every area.”

“The blocking was up to the mark,” said Kerala coach K. Abdul Nazer. “Everything else automatically fell into place. Like the first pass etc. Also, they missed their key players. Railways will improve once they come back.”

In the other Group ‘A’ match, Punjab beat Andhra Pradesh 20-25, 25-23, 25-11, 25-21. As a result, the latter with a winless record in the league stage, will compete in the play-offs for a quarterfinal place. Railways, Kerala and Punjab are through to the last eight.

Results:-

Men: Kerala bt Railways 25-20, 25-12, 25-22; Punjab bt Andhra Pradesh 20-25, 25-23, 25-11, 25-21; Maharashtra bt Pondicherry 25-19, 25-17, 25-23; Haryana bt Bihar 25-21, 25-19, 25-15; Uttarakhand bt Jharkhand 25-21, 25-15, 25-23; Uttar Pradesh bt Goa 25-16, 25-19, 25-22; West Bengal bt J&K 25-21, 25-18, 25-20; Chandigarh bt Odisha 25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 25-18, 15-12; Jharkhand bt Tripura 25-7, 25-20, 25-23; Madhya Pradesh bt Assam 25-23, 25-23, 26-24.

Women: Railways bt West Bengal 25-14, 25-16, 25-9; Maharashtra bt Punjab 25-19, 25-15, 25-11; Telangana bt Haryana 25-12, 25-18, 25-13; Odisha bt Chhatisgarh 25-15, 24-26, 25-15, 25-11; Gujarat bt Jharkhand 25-20, 25-12, 25-12; Himachal Pradesh bt Bihar 25-7, 25-4, 25-3; Delhi bt Pondicherry 25-13, 25-11, 25-18; Uttarakhand bt J&K 25-13, 25-19, 25-19; Karnataka (w/o) Tripura (non-participation); Himachal Pradesh bt Rajasthan 25-12, 25-16, 25-16; Bihar bt Pondicherry 25-12, 25-22, 25-23.