Chennai Spartans defeated Calicut Heroes in straight sets (15-11, 5-12, 16-14) to be crowned as the Champions of the inaugural edition of the Pro Volleyball league.
On a day when it mattered the most Calicut Heroes failed miserably that handed them the first loss of the tournament. With the win Chennai Spartans will now play in the Club World Championship that will be held in Chinese Taipei in the month of April.
Right from the start Chennai dominated the game completely and with players like Navin Raja Jacob, Rudy Verhoeff, Ruslans and V Hariharan scoring spike points, it made life difficult for the men in red. With the score at 14-11, Rudy Verhoeff produced a spike that sealed the set for Chennai. This was the first time that Calicut lost the first set of a game in the tournament.
Three continuous errors from Calicut skipper Jerome Vinith didn’t help the team however the tournament’s most valuable player Ajith Lal produced four spikes and it helped them equal the scores at 6-6.
The scores were level till 10-10 before Chennai secured a crucial super point and went on to win the set. In the third set, Calicut raced to a three point lead a two point lead at 13-11 and looked to win the set. But Chennai Spartans rose back with a crucial block and a spike from GS Akhin that gave the home team the championship point. At 15-14 an error from Jerome Vinith handed the home team a victory and the championship.
Chennai Spartans Coach MH Kumara said, “Everyone in the team contributed for us. We were not having a single hero. The team has proved that everyone here are heroes. Calicut reached the finals without tasting any pinch of pain but we came here after a lot of suffering and that made us a cool and compact outfit. The body language of the players before the finals was also positive. That helped us, however a big thanks to the Chennai crowd as they made the victory possible.”
The star player for the champions was the 29-year old Canadian Rudy Verhoeff, who became the first player in the league to score more than 100 points. About the win, he said, “It is an amazing feeling to win. It wasn’t an easy road for us. Our experience after the loss against Calicut Heroes really helped us. The crowd was also spectacular and it is something that I will remeber for the rest of my life.”
He however congratulated the Calicut Heroes for their spectacular run in the tournament. “Calicut is a phenomenal team with great players and good team management. In the finals, we were tactically a better team and they missed a lot of serves which did not help them. For us the crowd was also a big advantage because when you have their support you can focus on the game while they take care of the emotions,” he said.
On what he feels needs to be changed in the league, he said “We were very fortunate to play here in front of the crowd but I believe every team needs to play in their home as most leagues operate in the home and away format.”
Paul Lotman of Calicut Heroes praised Chennai for the way they played. “I have to give credit to Chennai for playing well. Pretty disappointed with the result. We were in a new situation as we played against a team that took the first set away from us for the first time. I don’t know if it’s extra pressure but we played with a weight on our back and I don’t know why.”
About his experience of playing the league, he said “It was amazing. The atmosphere created by the fans was great. Very happy to come here and it was an absolutely amazing experience.”
|Earlier in the day, a women’s All stars exhibition game was held in which Team blue won the match, 15-5, 12-15, 15-6 with Alexa Strange, who turned out as a commentator for the Pro Volleyball league, top-scoring in it with 13 points. In the first set alone, Alexa picked up ten points, helping her side clinch the set. Team Yellow bounced back in the second set to take the game to the decider. In the third set, Blue had complete domination as during the technical timeout, the score was 8-2. It then won the set and the match with the score 15-6, and won the trophy as well.|