PVL: Chennai Spartans sets up title clash with Calicut Heroes

Chennai Spartans beat Kochi Blue Spikers 3-2 in the second semifinal of the Pro Volleyball League to set up the summit clash with Calicut Heroes.

Chennai Spartans won the first set, fourth set and fifth set to book a place in the final.   -  M. Vedhan

Chennai Spartans beat Kochi Blue Spikers 16-14, 9-15, 10-15, 15-8, 15-13 in the second semifinal of the Pro Volleyball League at the Nehru Indoor Stadium, Chennai on Wednesday.

The yellow of Chennai Spartans comfortably outnumbered the blue of Kochi Blue Spikers in the stands and, even down in the centre, yellow triumphed over the blue by a narrow margin of 3-2. Winning the key moments in the first, fourth and fifth sets helped Chennai secure its place in Friday’s final with Calicut Heroes.

Chennai edged Kochi 16-14 in a very even first set, which seesawed all the way to the finish. Kochi had a chance to close out the set at 14-13, but a spike from Ruslans Sorokins brought the home team level and it won the next two points in succession to crucially go one up. Chennai had been the better team before the technical timeout, even though it held only a one-point lead (8-7). Naveen Raja, Rudy Verhoeff, G. S. Akhin and Sorokins committed four service errors in that period and a resurgent Kochi had chances to make Chennai pay.

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Super Point shaped the course of the second set, which Kochi won 15-9. At 5-5, Kochi opted for Super Point and a Manu Joseph spike helped it build a two-point lead. Chennai sought to stop Kochi from running away with the set by taking its Super Point option when it was 6-9 down.

An error from Naveen helped Kochi increased its lead to five points (11-6), which it consolidated with spikes from Joseph and Andrej Patuc. Joseph scored seven points and was central to Kochi drawing level in the match.

 

"We should have won it in three sets, but they introduced a new setter [Kapil Dev] and the match changed thereafter.”

- David Lee, Kochi Blue Spikers

 

Kochi took control of the third set early with twin blocks from David Lee and a Joseph spike, going 5-1 up before Chennai stringed together two points in succession. Another Joseph spike at 6-3 gave Kochi a four-point lead, forcing the home team to call for Super Point.

Chennai Spartans players celebrate during the match against Kochi Blue Spikers.

 

It won the Super Point courtesy of attacker Sorokins, but spikes from Joseph and captain Mohan Ukkrapandian and a Shelton Moses unforced error immediately after established a five-point lead (10-5). Lee rose from the bench late on and accrued two points with two spikes. A service error from Naveen handed Kochi the third set 15-10.

Kochi slackened at the start of the fourth set, though the Super Point once again proved decisive. At 6-7, Kapil Dev, Chennai’s setter, served an ace with his team on Super Point, giving it a healthy three-point cushion.

"Kapil Dev is an experienced player and he controlled the situation [after replacing Hariharan] midway through the third set."  

-Shelton Moses, Chennai Spartans captain

Then, 7-10 down, Kochi opted for Super Point, which Chennai won courtesy of a block from Rudy Verhoeff. 12-7 up, the set was Chennai’s to lose, but spikes from Naveen and Rudy took it to within a point of the set, which it won thanks to Joseph totally missing his spike.

Winning the fourth set gave fresh impetus to Chennai and with a combination of spikes and blocks, it put itself in the driver’s seat at the technical timeout. At 9-9, the set was anyone’s to win.

Lee’s spike to win the Super Point for Kochi put it 11-10 up. But back-to-back spikes from Naveen gave Chennai the edge. It had to temporarily suspend celebrations with Kochi reviewing the line judge’s ‘out’ call at 14-13, but the players and the home crowd were bouncing in joy merely seconds after.

“Elite performers will play when it matters. Kapil came and the entire rhythm [of the match] changed. Everybody played a fantastic game. Today volleyball is the winner because it went to five sets, which the people really enjoy.”

- M. H. Kumara, Chennai Spartans coach