Kerala men emerge champions

Kerala beat Railways 25-17, 20-25, 26-24, 25-27, 15-9 to emerge the men’s champion of the senior National volleyball championship at the Nehru indoor stadium here on Friday.

It was Kerala’s sixth National title. Railways’s attempt at a three-peat thus stood foiled.

Railways women won their ninth consecutive title with a 25-21, 21-25, 25-15, 25-21 win over Kerala.

Kerala had a superior blocking game, and Railways, especially at times when it was ahead with Kerala close on its heels, relied heavy on forceful play than fanciful.

At 22-20 in the second set, Manu Joseph’s swat of a spike proved too good to dig out for U. Abdul Raheem who went down in a flash for it.

Manu, again for the next point, banged it across at open space, the ball too quick for anyone to even try to dig it out.

The third set resembled a never-ending tug-of-war with both teams pulling at each other, all determined and miser-tight. It was 6-6 at one point, 13-13 at another, and 24-24 before Kerala clinched it 26-24.

The fourth set was intense, too, as Railways pulled off from 25-all to win it 27-25.

Players on either side slid, stretched and fell in the long rally when Kerala was up 25-24, which C. Ajithlal ended in Kerala’s favour with a spike.

The women’s match was also close-fought as the margins of win in three of the four sets — rather than the overall score — will indicate.

The Kerala women did ply the standard tricks to try and push their odds at a title win.

There was the feign-a-bash for a gentle push, as E.P. Sanisha did for Kerala to go 4-3 up in the first set — the ball dropped, close to the net, as the opponents, who had expected a full-blown spike were caught unawares.

And, the feint-a-move for target space. For instance, P.P. Reshma rushed straight at the ball, also moving her arm as if to spike straight yet placing it cross-court. It didn’t help that Railways saw through all of it for the most part of play.

Railways got anxious and committed mistakes at crucial moments. It was a negligible glitch in its play though. Like, Minimol Abraham hit the ball off-court when it was looking to claim the first set at 24-19.

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