Pro Volleyball League: U Mumba seals semifinal spot with strong show

U Mumba produced a strong show and defeated Ahmedabad Defenders to go through to the last-four stage as the fourth-placed team.

Dipesh Kumar Sinha of U Mumba in action against Ahmedabad Defenders Nehru Indoor Stadium on Monday.   -  R. Ragu

Winless in three matches, U Mumba Volley came to Chennai needing to win both its remaining league matches to progress to the semifinals.

It edged Chennai Spartans 3-2 on Saturday and on Monday, under no less pressure and against an opponent (Ahmedabad Defenders) desperate to avoid being winless, it produced a strong show to go through to the last-four stage as the fourth-placed team.

It lost the first set by making a string of unforced errors and made life difficult for itself. But Vinit Kumar and captain Dipesh Kumar Sinha very much carried the team in the next four sets, giving it a 4-1 win.

The first set had pretty much everything: long rallies, quality spikes and unforced errors. Only a point (8-7) separated the two teams at the technical timeout.

READ: PVL: Chennai Spartans reaches semis with dominant show

Mandeep Singh, a universal for Ahmedabad, connected cleanly with three of his four spike attempts and for U Mumba - Tomislav Coskovic, Pankaj Sharma and Prince did the most damage with their spikes.

The quality of the first half of the first set dissipated in the second. U Mumba made five unforced errors after the technical timeout, with Coskovic dragging his spikes wide and catching the net once with his serve.

U Mumba won its Super Point at 8-11, but Ahmedabad opted for Super Point immediately after and won it. Not surprisingly, an error from Pankaj, a U Mumba attacker, handed Ahmedabad the set.

Dipesh, one of U Mumba’s blockers, and Vinit, a universal, played decisive roles in their team winning the second set 15-12.

Dipesh and Vinit won three points apiece, the former sealing the set for U Mumba with a spike. Coskovic, who was one of the major contributors with six points for U Mumba in its 3-2 win over Chennai Spartans two nights ago, continued to have a torrid time and was substituted midway through the second set, but Dipesh and Vinit were nearly flawless with their spikes and led U Mumba to parity.

READ: Tomislav Coskovic: A career across Europe reaches India

Ahmedabad ceded too much ground early in the third set, winning just two of the first ten points and going into the technical timeout six points adrift (8-2).

Vinit Kumar of U Mumba spikes the ball against Ahmedabad Defenders at Nehru Indoor Stadium on Monday.   -  R. Ragu

 

It meant the good work in the second half of the set (when it won 11 of the 18 points) didn’t make a difference. At 7-12, Ahmedabad opted for Super Point and won it courtesy a spike from Victor Sysoev, an attacker, who fired a spike and an ace with his team 9-13 down to take it to just two points off the opponent.

But Vinit connected with all three of his spike attempts late in the set and his flawless hitting helped U Mumba secure the set 15-13.

Neither team needed opposition errors to win points at the start of the fourth set. Dilip Koiwal, an Ahmedabad attacker, connected each of his four spikes early in the set, but on the other side of the net, Dipesh and Pankaj were equally prolific, albeit in a different way.

Pankaj served two aces and made a block while Dipesh fired a spike to set the tone for U Mumba, giving it a 5-2 lead. Nicholas Del Bianco, a U Mumba attacker, fired two spikes in succession with the score 5-3.

An ace from Vinit and a spike from Prince helped U Mumba build a five-point lead (10-5). Victor, though, won the Super Point that Ahmedabad opted for and not only helped reduce the lead to three points but also spark a change in momentum.

Blocks from Vaishnav and Novica Bjelica, and a spike from Dilip took Ahmedabad to within a point (13-12). Victor then dragged his serve long, giving U Mumba set point. A Nicholas block gave it the set, the match and a place in the semifinals.

The fifth set was a mere formality and with Vinit and Dipesh proving excellent again, scoring five and three points respectively. U Mumba faced little resistance to go on and win the set 15-8 and complete a 4-1, comeback victory.

Three teams were locked on four points, but U Mumba (-1) and Chennai (+1) went through on the basis of better set differences than Black Hawks Hyderabad (-3).

Match result and Semifinal line-up

U Mumba Volley beat Ahmedabad Defenders 4-1: 10-15 15-12 15-13 15-12 15-8

Semifinal 1: Calicut Heroes vs U Mumba Volley; Semifinal 2: Kochi Blue Spikers vs Chennai Spartans