Ten months ago, S Dakshinamoorthy, head coach of Ahmedabad Defenders, could not imagine entering the finals of Prime Volleyball League 2023, let alone clinching the trophy.
Shon T John, the team’s star performer the previous season, was injured before the tournament.
However, Dakshinamoorthy, who also coaches the SRM University team, remained unfazed by the sudden change of plans and decided to go with Nandagopal Subramaniyam, a 22-year-old he had seen playing in several college tournaments. This move was a game changer for Ahmedabad, which, regardless of Shon’s services, found itself in a comfortable spot and won the second PVL season.
Taking part in the Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship 2023 is a bonus that the PVL winner will enjoy.
Allowing players from other teams in PVL for the Club Championship gave the Ahmedabad head coach an opportunity to fill in the void in the team. “If we feel like our team (in PVL) lacked in certain positions, we could fill in with other PVL players or foreign players,” the head coach told Sportstar.
The selection of players is not only based on experience but also on those with brilliant Asian Games and PVL 2023 performances. Ashwal Rai, who was among the top blockers; Guru Prasanth, who won the Most Valuable Player title; Mohan Ukkrapandian, the best setter of PVL 2023; and Amit Gulia, who performed well in the Asian Games and PVL 2023 are some examples.
The team has also taken in two new foreign players, Max Senica from Australia and Ilya Burau of Belarus.
The Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship 2023 will see six teams from around the world, including the host India, scheduled in Bengaluru from December 6 to 10. Other teams participating include defending champion Sir Sicoma Perugia of Italy, Turkiye’s Halkbank Spor Kulubu, Brazil’s Sada Cruzeiro Volei and Itambe Minas and Japan’s Suntory Sunbirds.
The head coach admitted that as India was the host, the team received an easy opportunity to face these top-ranked clubs. Otherwise, the Defenders had to play in the Asian Club Championship, which they would have to win to compete in this tournament.
“Since this is the first time India is selected, we’re going to give our best and see if our players can rise to the occasion. We can also check the standard of Indian volleyball to that of other world clubs and take this opportunity as a lesson to rise in the future.”
Preparing for the Championship has not been easy for the Defenders, who came together to train for 15-20 days, given the unavailability of several players. “What’s problematic in our system is receiving permission from the respective departments they work for, due to which the camp started late,” said Dakshinamoorthy.
The teams are split into two Pools, with Ahmedabad Defenders in the same group as Itambe Minas of Brazil and Sir Sicoma Perugia, which it will face on December 6 and 8, respectively. To take on the South American and European powerhouse, the Defenders have incorporated data analysis into their training.
“We are monitoring their previous matches and using data science to analyze the players, approach to the game, their serve, attack and strong points. Based on the analysis, we come up with tactics, and ensure to make the best use of our strength to match up with them,” the Defenders head coach said.
In search of experience and a chance to play against athletes who have taken part and won the World Championship and Olympics for their national teams, Dakshinamoorthy and the Ahmedabad Defenders have a tough road ahead with nothing to lose and a lot to learn.
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