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Kerala women in semifinals

Principal Correspondent

KOCHI: : At first glance, one would tend to think that a bunch of juniors was playing for Kerala in the Senior National beach handball championship here. Names like Remya, Sruthi and Sandhya, the young girls who had helped Kerala to the Junior National handball crown here just three days ago, were in full flow at the Fort Kochi beach on Saturday evening.

But somehow, things didn't gell. Suddenly, the girls appeared a lot older. On a closer inspection, one realised that the Kerala women were playing with borrowed vests.

With the State Government funding only regular handball, Kerala's beach handballers here had to do with borrowed colours. Or probably, things were planned so hastily, that nobody thought of giving the team a proper uniform.

However, the Kerala women did not let such things upset their play or their pattern. They had won the Senior National title in regular handball many times before and all the experience came in handy this evening as they crushed Gujarat 2-0 to enter the semifinals on their beach debut.

"It's stunning, they are quick learners. They can go all the way to the final, probably win the title too," said S.Appa Rao of Andhra Pradesh, the Handball Federation of India's Director of Beach Handball, after watching the Kerala women in action.

M. Deepa was Kerala's top scorer with 11 points while P.V. Sheeba and E.A. Anupama chipped in with six and four respectively as the host topped Group `A'.

Andhra Pradesh, the runner-up in all the three previous editions of the women's senior Nationals, also made the last four-grade along with defending champion Chattisgarh and Karnataka.

In the men's section, last year's champion Chhattisgarh and Kerala entered the semifinals.

The results (league):

Men: Uttar Pradesh bt Orissa 2-0; Kerala bt Karnataka 2-1; Delhi bt Maharashtra 2-1; Orissa bt MP; MP bt Mumbai Academy 2-1; Gujarat bt Maharashtra 2-0.

Women: Chattisgarh bt Delhi 2-0; Maharashtra bt Pondicherry 2-0; Kerala bt Pondicherry 2-0; Kerala bt Gujarat 2-0; Andhra Pradesh bt Maharashtra 2-0; Andhra Pradesh bt Pondicherry 2-0; Andhra Pradesh bt Gujarat 2-0; Gujarat bt Pondicherry 2-0; Karnataka bt Orissa 2-0; Karnataka bt Delhi 2-0.

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