A boost for Karnataka

Karnataka men’s team, winners of the 67th Senior National Volleyball championship in Bengaluru on Friday. STANDING (From left) Nakul Dev, Ganesh, Ravikumar, Karthik S A, Raison, Pratheek Shetty, Ashwal Rai. SITTING: P C Satish (Manager), Vishu Kumar (Asst coach), K R Lakshninarayana (coach), Darshan Gowda, Bharath, Karthik A, Vinayak, Sujith Acharya. DH Photo

The title-winning effort by the Karnataka men at the 67th Senior National Volleyball championship in Chennai was significant for more than one reason. 

Karnataka, led by Karthik A, defeated a star-studded Tamil Nadu in the final in Chennai to lift the trophy for the second time. It was in the inaugural season back in 1951-52, that Karnataka, then Mysore, had won their only title.

The confusion over team-selection in the build-up phase makes Karnataka’s win doubly special. The Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) had suspended the Karnataka Volleyball Association and an ad-hoc committee was formed and approved by the VFI only in the second week of December and the selection trials were held on December 22. 

“There was lot of confusion before the meet. We weren’t even sure of going. The players were desperate to participate. Though the camp was just for four days, we all worked hard. We didn’t even train indoors for a single day but we went into the competition with confidence,” said Karthik. 

Karnataka didn’t get off to an ideal start as they went down to Kerala in the opener. However, they regrouped quickly to beat Tamil Nadu and Punjab in the Group stage to progress. “We worked on our coordination after the defeat. Then things began falling in place,” Karthik said. 

In the final, they faced a Tamil Nadu side that had three star India internationals in GR Vaishnav, Mohan Ukkrapandian and Naveen Raja Jacob. “It’s not easy to beat the home side in the final. They received (Tamil Nadu) terrific crowd support. It was intimidating and we lost the first set. But the turning point arrived in the second set. It was a close one and we won 36-34. That hit their confidence and we managed to apply full pressure,” Karthik explained. 

It was the seniors who stepped up for Karnataka. Apart from Karthik, the dependable trio of Ashwal Rai (blocker), Raison Rebello (attacker) and Vinayak (setter), were in fine form throughout the competition. Youngster Ganesh Gowda (universal) was the other star performer. 

Coach Lakshmi Narayana said keeping Naveen Raja quiet was the clincher for his team in the title clash. “We all know what a brilliant attacker he is (Naveen). So we worked on countering him. We sat and discussed his angle of attack and I am glad our strategy worked,” he said. 

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A boost for Karnataka

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