Defending Champions Sir Sicoma Perugia dominated Ahmedabad Defenders 25-18, 25-19, 25-11 in their second Pool A match to reach the FIVB Men’s Volleyball Club World Championships semifinal at the Koramangala Indoor Stadium here on Friday.
Veteran Mohan Ukkrapandian and local favourite Ashwal Rai received the loudest cheers. However, it was LM Manoj’s powerful spike that garnered attention. After restoring parity, the Italian side ensured that the hosts did not have it easy with consecutive aims at empty spaces.
Angamuthu Ramaswamy’s spike reduced the score difference to 10-14, but the Jesus Herrera Jaime and Sebastian Sole combination proved too hard for the Indian defence. While the Indian team managed to stop one set point, Sicoma had enough points in its kitty to end the set with a 25-18 scoreline.
Though Herrera and Oleh Plotnytskyi had braces on their left leg, it did not stop them from creating havoc on the Indian attack and defence. The restless crowd jeered the Italian players serving, who seemed to have missed a few due to the boisterous noise. India did redeem itself in the second set with some tactically aimed shots set by the captain, Muthusamy Appavu.
Adding to Ahmedabad’s points was the Italian side committing several errors, including several wides. However, the Wilfredo Leon-led side made the 25-19 score look like a cakewalk.
Ahmedabad’s lacklustre third set made it easy for Sicoma to probe on the openings as the Indian innings in the tournament came to an end. The Italian powerhouse ruled the third set 25-11 without breaking a sweat.
The defending champions will face Turkiye’s Halkbank Spor Kulubu in the semifinals. The Turkish team shocked four-time CWC winner Sada Cruzeiro Volei 26-24, 25-18, 28-26 earlier in the day.
The two teams were pretty much neck and neck in the first set courtesy of the Cuban outside hitter Miguel Angel Lopez, whose fiery attacks saw Sada take the upper hand, but constant serve errors saw them lose those points. For Halbank, the Dutch opposite and French outside hitter duo of Nimir Abdel-Aziz and Earvin Ngapeth contributed to seal the first set 26-24.
The debutants from Turkiye rode on the winning momentum by finding gaps in Sada’s defence to lead 11-8. Halkbank captain Aziz’s shouts reverberated throughout the stadium as his team got through the second set 25-18. At this point, the two contrasting bench attitudes were visible, with the Turkish side dancing, clapping, and cheering, while the other bench was pensive. Sada was out-performed by the debutants, failing to pick up the fire it had in the first set with a slow response and relatively poor defence.
After an 11-8 lead in the third set, Halkbank seemed to have lost some focus with its coach Slobodan Kovac’s hand gesturing them to calm down. However, the four-time winners’ experience saved three match points to tie 26-26, but the debutants made it count when it mattered the most, sealing the deal with a 28-26 scoreline.
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