From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.35 :: NO.11 :: Mar. 15, 2012
Uttar Pradesh men's team which won the National Youth Volleyball Championship.
When the West Bengal Volleyball Association (WBVA) bid for organising the 14th National Youth (under-21) Championship, it had the sprawling Netaji Indoor Stadium (Kolkata) in mind as the ideal venue for the players to showcase their talent. But in reality, the teams were forced to play on the mud courts of the state association and other places as the cost of hiring the Netaji Indoor Stadium was beyond the reach of the organisers.
Blame it on the policies of the State Government or the inability of the WBVA to bear the extra cost, but the fact remains that the players, who are the future of Indian volleyball, were forced to rough it out on the outdoor courts.
At the end of it all, it was Uttar Pradesh (men's section) and Kerala (women's section) who stepped up to receive the winner's trophy from none other than the West Bengal Sports Minister.
The Youth Championship, considered the next best to Senior Nationals, did not see much change in the hierarchy. UP managed to retain the top place in the men's section as Kerala pushed out Tamil Nadu from the second spot. Haryana, which had finished fourth last year, dropped out of the top four and was replaced by Karnataka.
In the women's section, Kerala won its 12th title and fourth in succession. Haryana, which had finished second best in the 13th edition, ended up in fourth place. Tamil Nadu emerged third and Himachal Pradesh, for the first time in three years, went out of the top four. West Bengal improved from third to occupy second spot this year.
Jubilant Kerala players after winning the women's crown in the National Youth Volleyball Championship.
UP's title triumph, its second in succession, was fashioned by four players of extraordinary skill and tactical acumen. Skipper Nikhilesh Mishra, universal zone player Saurabh Singh, blockers Mohit Rathi and Rahul Chaudhary were outstanding.
Kerala, which had ousted Tamil Nadu in the semifinals in a thriller, was never allowed to get into its rhythm by UP in the final. Yet, the player who caught the eye was Kamalakshan Vivek. The slightly-built player was the fulcrum of Kerala.
Tamil Nadu, which eventually finished third, came up with its usual fast, attacking game. But it did not work against an experienced Kerala in the last-four stage. Otherwise many thought it was the year of Tamil Nadu.
For Tamil Nadu, S. Karthik, who was the youngest member of the team, excelled as a setter. Among the attackers, R. Vignesh caught the eye with his thundering smashes.
Kerala women were too good for West Bengal in the final as they claimed their 12th crown. Kerala fielded two players from its senior team, M. S. Poornima and P. P. Reshma, and kept E. K. Fathima Ruksana on the bench.
The final was a one-sided affair with Kerala calling all the shots. The experience, skill and height of the Kerala players gave the team the advantage over others.
The next best team in terms of talent was Tamil Nadu, which had seven players from the senior team. It was the team's bad luck that it had to run into Kerala in the semifinals. P. Narmadha, R. Mahalakshmi, L. Jenifer, Devika Devarajan, R. Ragana, J. Monisha and D. Yogavathi failed to raise their game against Kerala in the last-four stage. In the process, Tamil Nadu had to be content with the third position.
Men's final: Uttar Pradesh beat Kerala 15-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-21.
Third place: TN beat Karnataka 20-25, 25-20, 17-25, 25-21, 15-10.
Women's final: Kerala beat West Bengal 25-12, 25-20, 25-16.
Third place: TN beat Haryana 25-23, 25-11, 25-22.
TN, WEST BENGAL REIGN SUPREME
It was an extraordinary show by the Tamil Nadu boys, who regained the title despite losing the services of four players, who were found to be over-aged, and their libero P. Prabhakaran, who fell ill on the day of the final.
In the final of the 38th Junior National Championship, played at the Sidhu Kanu Indoor Stadium in Durgapur, TN beat Andhra Pradesh in a five-set thriller.
AP's 21st appearance in the final was in tatters as TN struck a nice rhythm. For TN, it was its ninth title in 14 appearances in the final.
In the girls section West Bengal defeated Kerala in the final to win their ninth crown. The host was in complete control in the summit clash, taking early leads before winning all the three sets.
With central blocker Anushri Ghosh — who played in both the Senior Youth and Junior National — controlling the net and spiking at will, Kerala found it difficult to regroup and fight back.
West Bengal last won the junior National title in 1997 (in Vidhisha, Madhya Pradesh). And the last time it figured in the final was in Nagpur in 2008.
Boys' final: TN beat AP 27-25, 21-25, 25-20, 26-28, 15-8; 3-4 places: UP beat Karnataka 28-26, 25-9, 26-24.
Girls' final: West Bengal beat Kerala 25-14, 25-15, 14-25, 25-13. 3-4 places: TN beat UP 25-17, 19-25, 25-16, 25-25.
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