Volleyball National: Punjab pips Kerala in a pulsating contest

Later, in a contest of complete contrast, Tamil Nadu forced Karnataka into submission by an easy 31-29, 25-21, 25-16 margin in just 70 minutes.

Punjab's Rajveer Singh and Hardeep Singh blocking the smash during the 64th National Volleyball Championship match against Kerala.   -  Sampath Kumar G. P.

In a pulsating five-set match lasting two hours and three minutes, Punjab edged Kerala 25-23, 25-23, 17-25, 14-25, 15-13 on day five of the 64th Senior National volleyball championship at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday.

Later, in a contest of complete contrast, Tamil Nadu forced Karnataka into submission by an easy 31-29, 25-21, 25-16 margin in just 70 minutes.

Last year’s runner-up no doubt played its best match so far, as the experienced duo of setter Ukkara Pandian and attacker Naveen Raja Jacob finally found its bearings.

But Karnataka, on the day, was rank bad.

It was the last match of the league stage and even if it had won a set, it would have finished atop Group B, but instead the straight-set loss pushed it to third.

In the end, three sides finished on six points but on the basis of set-ratio Tamil Nadu was declared first, followed by Services and Karnataka.

Rajasthan, with three losses finished at the bottom.

In Group A, despite the loss, Kerala topped with seven points and was followed by Railways (6), Punjab (5) and Andhra Pradesh (0).

As a consequence, Karnataka will take on defending champion Railways and Punjab will meet Services in two of the four quarterfinals.

The leaders though will know their opponents only after the playoff matches on Thursday.

Early in the day, even as Kerala’s centre-blocker G.S. Akhin took off from where he had left against Railways in the previous match, star-attacker Jerome Vinith misfired for a majority of the first two sets.

Yet, they proved to be tight affairs. After falling behind in each of them, Kerala recovered but unfortunately not well enough. It lost both the sets 25 points to 23.

An injury to Akhin (twisted ankle) at the start of the second, which then forced him to sit out, didn’t help. But in K.R. Rijas, Kerala found an able deputy. Vinith too regained his mojo as the side bagged the next two sets convincingly.

In the fifth, after taking the first two points, Kerala lost seven on the trot. In a 15-point final set it proved too big a difference to bridge.

Results:

Men: Tamil Nadu bt Karnataka 31-29, 25-21, 25-16; Punjab bt Kerala 25-23, 25-23, 17-25, 14-25, 15-13; Services bt Rajasthan 25-20, 30-28, 25-18; Madhya Pradesh bt Bihar 25-22, 25-21, 25-21; Assam bt Gujarat 25-22, 26-24, 25-19; West Bengal bt Puducherry 25-18, 25-20, 25-19; Uttarakhand bt Tripura 25-14, 25-11, 25-13; Himachal Pradesh bt Goa 25-20, 21-25, 25-14, 28-26; Chhattisgarh bt Jharkhand 25-19, 26-28, 25-18, 25-23; Pondicherry bt J&K 21-25, 25-27, 25-20, 25-16, 15-11; Haryana bt Madhya Pradesh 25-14, 25-18, 25-15; Uttar Pradesh bt Odisha 25-18, 25-19, 25-21; Chandigarh bt Himachal Pradesh 25-19, 19-25, 21-25, 25-18, 15-8.

Women: Andhra Pradesh bt Chandigarh 13-25, 25-09, 25-14, 25-18; Delhi bt Rajasthan 26-24, 20-25, 26-24, 23-25, 17-15; Maharashtra bt West Bengal 25-20, 25-23, 25-13; Kerala bt Tamil Nadu 25-20, 25-16, 25-19; Uttar Pradesh bt Madhya Pradesh 25-17, 25-18, 25-20.

On Tuesday: Men: Maharashtra bt Delhi 25-22, 25-18, 25-19; Telangana bt Jharkhand 25-15, 25-22, 25-20.

Women: Uttar Pradesh bt J&K 25-4, 25-6, 25-7.