Season one runner-up Ahmedabad Defenders will square off against Calicut Heroes in the second semifinal of the Prime Volleyball League at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on Saturday.
When the teams last faced each other, Ahmedabad edged past Heroes 3-2. Defenders coach S Dakshinamoorthy is hoping for an encore come Saturday.
“We have learnt from that game and are contemplating our negatives and their plus points,” he told Sportstar.
Dakshinamoorthy wanted to play Kolkata Thunderbolts if his team advanced to the summit clash — to settle old scores — but destiny had other plans as Bengaluru Torpedoes stunned Kolkata 3-1 in the first semifinal.
Defenders missed out on a top-of-the-standings finish in the league stage courtesy a dismal performance against the Thunderbolts in the final league fixture of the season. Calicut’s league campaign also ended with a loss to the Torpedoes.
“Last match we struggled with reception especially when we dropped two-three direct serves. This proved to be negative for our team and further resulted in our attacks not being great,” Dakshinamoorthy explained.
The seasoned coach enjoys longstanding coaching relationships with many players in the league, including his own stars Mohan Ukkra Pandian and Jerome Vinith. However, he believes that nothing matters other than who turns up best on the court.
“Having coached Mohan and Jerome, I know their intention as I have known them for the past 10 years. It will be an advantage, but in the end, it all depends on the day’s performance. ”
It was not all gloom with that last league loss for Calicut. The side qualified for the semifinal courtesy a higher set difference than the Torpedoes and Hyderabad Blackhawks.
Calicut’s veteran player Ukkra is focusing on the positives in the loss to the Torpedoes.
“Facing Bengaluru, the first two sets were not our usual style of play; it was from the third set we found our rhythm. Even in the fifth set (which we lost) we had it in us. We are taking the positives and learning from our errors in the past two days,” he said ahead of the knockout clash.
Ranking among the top setters in the league, Ukkra believes that the key for the success will be to adapt to team needs and match situations and that a solid team performance is the ask to advance in the tournament.
“The match where we lost to the Defenders was very close. Had it not been for a few errors made by the team in the last few points, that result could have been different,” he added.
The 36-year-old setter is thrilled to see his team in the semis and hopes to perform well even after the ups and downs in the tournament so far.
“Last year we lost in the semis, this year we plan to be champions,” he said.