Kerala's dominant women retain the national volleyball title

KOCHI: when Kerala the women dismantled the Railroads 3-0 last October to lift the Federation Cup Many considered him unique. That the southern team that had knocked down the 10 reigning champions early in the season, but only after working in a throbbing five-set game to get a senior national title in Chennai, couldn't it be so good.

Any lingering doubts over their growing influence in the game were allayed Thursday when Kerala once again crushed the Railways 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-15) to retain the senior national crown in Bhubaneswar.

Not only did Kerala deny their illustrious opponents a chance to avenge their humiliating loss in the Fed Cup they made sure to stamp their authority by not dropping a set in the entire event just as they did in Amritsar in October.

"We dominated the championship like we did in the Federation Cup ," said head coach Sadanandan. "As they say, it is not that hard to win a title but the toughest part is to retain it and I can proudly say the girls played like champions. If we continue our hard work we would be able to remain a dominant force in the coming years as well," the coach added.

Both sides had few changes in personnel since October, the Railways in particular, who knew they couldn't afford yet another slow start. Their gameplan of attacking Kerala 's reception with probing serves was in stark contrast to what they had executed in the Fed Cup final. As a result, the first ten points were evenly fought for, and unlike in their previous meeting, the Railways occasionally took a slender lead in between.

While the Railways' resilience did light up the finale the Kerala side were not taken by surprise. "Since the Federation Cup , we had worked hard on our reception and blocking so we were prepared for their aggression. In the first set, they led their attacks through Minimol (Abraham) chechi but we were able to thwart the moves and then they reworked their plan but we were prepared for that as well," said Captain and main blocker Anju Balakrishnan who was a rock in defence alongside Soorya S.

After losing an evenly fought second set the Railways fizzle out, and Kerala completed the formalities in little over an hour. Setter Jini KS and Sruthi M were effective with their serves while attacker Rekha S and Wayanad's opposite-player Anushree KP were consistent throughout.

Kerala men, meanwhile, bagged the bronze with a 3-0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-19) win over Karnataka . Tamil Nadu secured the men's title by defeating the Railways 3-1 (25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 25-23).