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Southern Railway on the right track

Principal Correspondent

Just a win away from the crown



SMASH: Southern Railway captain Geetha Raju gets past the KSEB blockers Aswini Kumar and P.V. Sheeba. — Photo: Vipin Chandran

KOCHI: Southern Railway's sparkling young talent was in full view in the 11th National Volleyball League's final phase at the BPCL Complex here on Friday evening. And it's a tough bunch, as women's defending champion KSEB realised to its disappointment.

Down by two sets, the Chennai side fought back strongly to stun KSEB in a five-set thriller and get into the title zone. The team is now just a victory away from the crown.

Southern Railway's strong two-women block, where captain Geetha Raju and setter Anu Jose took turns in pairing up with the tall K.T. Betsy, was the big reason for the team's happy turnaround. The stubborn wall blunted the KSEB attackers Aswini Kumar and M.K. Prajeesha at crucial stages in a match, which lasted nearly a 100 minutes.

When the game began, KSEB was in fine touch with Aswini, a very promising player, and Prajeesha, a javelin-thrower turned volleyballer, helping the team out of all the tight corners, while setter Jomol also came up with some winning serves. But as the match wore on, the Railway girls trained their guns on former international Jisha Thomas who is just returning after a knee surgery.

Jisha, who gained a reputation as the female version of Tom Joseph for her stunning smashes a few years ago, jumped gingerly on Friday and her smashes lacked punch. Her substitute, P.K. Naseema did not inspire much confidence too. All these weak links showed up in the last three sets.

The decider was close with KSEB's Prajeesha and Railway's Preethi U. Kartha dominating the attack. Railway led 13-10 at one stage, but the scores were level at 15. But Preethi won two consecutive points, with the lucky winner coming with a weak hop over the net. Southern Railway has won two matches in the four-team league and plays its last match against Eastern Railway on Sunday. KSEB has won one match and lost one.

Cochin Port Trustand defending champion BPCL posted straight-sets wins over Indian Overseas Bank and Indian Navy late on Thursday night.

The results: Women: Southern Railway, Chennai bt KSEB, Thiruvananthapuram 25-27, 17-25, 25-19, 25-19, 17-15; Western Railway, Mumbai bt Eastern Railway, Kolkata 25-16, 15-25, 17-25, 25-21, 15-11.

Thursday's late matches: Cochin Port Trust, Kochi bt Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai 25-22, 25-20, 25-14; BPCL, Kochi bt Indian Navy 25-22, 25-18, 25-23.

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