Karnataka off the blocks in fine style

Defending champs Railways start brightly

Karnataka off the blocks in fine style
Hosts Karnataka began their campaign at the 64th Senior National Championship with a hard-fought victory against Rajasthan here at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.

In a Group ‘B’ game, Karnataka were made to work hard for their win by a spirited Rajasthan. After the disappointing first set, which they lost 23-25, the A Karthik-led side regrouped well enough to come back strong to win the next three sets 28-26, 25-23, 25-20 to clinch the match in their favour.

In the second men’s match of the day, defending champions Railways kick-started their title defence with a smooth 25-20, 25-22, 25-22 win over Andhra.

In the women’s section, defending champions Indian Railways got off to a rousing start, thumping Maharashtra 25-19, 25-13, 25-17.

Backed by a vociferous crowd, Karnataka failed to begin strongly and looked an unsettled unit throughout the first set. The home team was also dealt a blow when their key player Ashwal Rai was asked to sit out by the officials owing to an eligibility issue.

Lack of precision while serving hurt Karnataka early on as Rajasthan dominated the proceedings in the first set. The visitors were helped by excellent performance from blockers Jatin Singh and Lavmeet Kataria. The duo worked well in tandem and kept Karnataka’s attack at bay. 

A couple of substitutions, one of which involved star player Anup D Costa sit out for Nikhil A worked well for Karnataka as they regained their touch to start well in the second set. The experienced TD Ravikumar along with captain Karthik came up with impressive smashes to keep Karnataka in control and the hosts’ defence, which looked off-colour in the first set, got back on its feet in fine fashion.

The fiery comeback from the hosts notwithstanding, Rajasthan kept themselves in the hunt. Karnataka though held their nerve to clinch the set in their favour.

In the third set, young blockers Bharath CM and Nikhil stole the show to give Karnataka the lead. Mixing skill and power, the duo was on fire for most part of the set and helped the hosts take it 25-23.

In the fourth set, despite trailing 8-12, Karnataka managed to pull off victory thanks to the brilliance of Ravikumar and an inspired show from Karthik.

Notwithstanding a winning start, Karnataka coach MH Kumara said that the side needs to improve in their defence. “I expect more from the senior players. The defence was disappointing. The blocking too lacked finesse in the start. But the boys are highly capable and they proved it with the victory.

“The youngsters did a good job. Each player knows his role well in the team and we expect to put a stronger performance in the next game against Services on Monday,” said Kumara. In another women’s match, last year’s runners-up Kerala defeated Haryana 25-9, 25-11, 25-10.

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