Ahmedabad Defenders warded off a spirited challenge from Kochi Blue Spikers to record a hard-fought 15-14, 15-14, 11-15, 14-15, 15-10 win in the Rupay Prime Volleyball League championship at GMC Balayogi Stadium (Gachibowli) here on Tuesday.

With this loss, Blue Spikers are out of the championship, facilitating Kolkata Thunderbolts' entry into the last four stage.

The teams which made it to the knock-out phase were table-toppers Defenders, Calicut Heroes, Hyderabad Black Hawks and the Thunderbolts.

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In a must-win game for Blue Spikers, it was Defenders who were off to a good start, winning the first two sets thanks to the brilliant teamwork of Angamuthu, Sanju Santosh, and ‘player of the match’ Shon P. John leading the attack, and Manoj doubling up in style as a blocker and also chipping in with some powerful spikes at critical moments.

If Defenders thought it would be a cakewalk, it was not to be as Blue Spikers displayed great resilience thanks to an outstanding show by Erin Varghese, Cody Caldwell and captain A. Karthik, who helped the team win the next two sets.

This despite T.R. Sethu, who came on as a substitute for his famed serve, faltered frequently. It was Karthik who led from the front and got splendid support from the defence too, which kept the rival attackers at bay consistently.

With two-sets all, the decider was expected to be a thriller but Defenders’ Manoj and A. Muthusamy had different intentions. Manoj came up with a terrific show under pressure when it mattered most.

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To the delight of the Defenders' camp, libero Prabhakaran came off with great returns.

In the company of Defenders captain Angamuthu, whose double blocks with Manoj were a treat to watch, the latter scored crucial points even as Shon made sure there were no escape routes for Blue Spikers.

And ironically, it was captain Karthik’s service error at 10-14 which saw Defenders wrap up the set and the match.