Pro Volleyball League: Unbeaten Calicut Heroes storms into final

Calicut Heroes stormed into the finals of the inaugural Pro Volleyball League with a 3-0 win over U Mumba Volley

Calicut Heroes' players celebrate after winning its semi-final match against U Mumba Volley.   -  R. Ragu

Calicut Heroes winning streak continued as it stormed into the final of the RuPay Pro Volleyball league with a comprehensive straight-sets win over U Mumba Volley (15-12, 15-9, 16-14) at the Nehru Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday.

The Calicut team came into the semifinal as the favourite and displayed its class in the first two sets by winning plenty of service points and converting the spike opportunities it had through captain Jerome Vinith in particular. Now Calicut awaits the winner of Wednesday’s second semifinal between Kochi Blue Spikers and Chennai Spartans.

The semifinal had a couple of key elements to it. The most important was the set had to be won by a points difference of two — unlike in the league stage, where it was a race to 15. Secondly, each team was allowed one review per set. Both these elements were in play at different stages of the match. A Tomislav Coskovic spike was successfully reviewed by U Mumba at a crucial point of the third set, which was then decided by a point difference of exactly two.

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Calicut came into the last-four stage having accrued the most serve points (43) and had players who operated with spike serve. So, controlling the spike serves that Jerome, Paul Lotman, A. Karthik unleashed was a first challenge U Mumba faced. But, it managed this aspect quite well, winning its first six points off Calicut’s serve.

U Mumba also self-destructed with unforced errors, captain Dipesh Kumar Sinha and Vinit Kumar catching the net with their serves when the team was trailing Calicut by a point and had chances to draw level. The only time U Mumba won successive points in the set was off back-to-back unforced errors from Vinith, drawing itself level at 10-10. But Calicut took the set 15-12 after winning its Super Point.

Calicut was far from its best in the second set — faltering with its well-known strength, its service, and making seven unforced errors in all — yet won the set with a much greater points difference than the first. It made four service errors in the set, but with Vinith almost unerring with his spike attempts and a mindful Ajith winning points with his timely flicks and lobs, Calicut more than made up for its issues with serve. It took control of the set by winning the Super Point opted by U Mumba with the score 7-9 and then consolidating that four-point advantage to go two sets to nil up.

U Mumba played a complete game for two-thirds of the do-or-die third set. But moments of lapses at the inopportune times meant Calicut overturned a five-point deficit and took the set 16-14.

Result:

Calicut Heroes bt U Mumba Volley 3-0 (15-12, 15-9, 16-14).