Captain Carson Clark led from the front as Black Hawks Hyderabad staved off a strong challenge from Ahmedabad Defenders 3-2 in the Pro Volleyball League at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium here on Monday. It was the first genuine five-setter in the league thus far.

America's Clark, a lefthander who played the 2014 World Championships, came up with fiery cross-court smashes from both the front and back courts that evaded the two-man block put up by the Defenders. With Muthusamy coming up with some smart back sets for him, the 30-year-old Clark was at his best from the right flank and offering him support was Ashwal Rai, who shone with his smashes and blocks.

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The first set was close and the teams were level at 10 but two Super Points, one when the Defenders’ Dilip Khoiwal netted his serve followed by Canadian Alexander Gerald’s ace, gave the Black Hawks the opening set.

Serbian Novika Bjelica and Russian Victor Sysoev put up a soft block for Clark in the second set, which was effective to some extent, and with Gagandeep Singh and G. R. Vaishnav impressing in attack, the Defenders levelled the match.

Clark was very effective from the backcourt in the third set while his attacking mate Alexander, though not full of fire, was sharp as he found many vacant spaces in the backcourt even as Kamlesh Karthik played his role impressively.

The Defenders stayed ahead for a major part of the fourth set but Hyderabad caught up with both teams level on 13 each . Mubarak Ali Sayyad came up with some thunderous smashes towards the end to take the match to the decider.

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Surprisingly, it was smooth sailing for the Hawks in the decider. While nothing went right for the Defenders, the Hawks kept their heads steady, took a big lead and won the last set comfortably.

“I told my guys to look at the decider as a fresh start,” said Clark who was very impressed with the Pro League and the quality of the Indian players.

“We had a strong team, a balanced side but luck was not with us,” said the Defenders captain Ranjit Singh, an Indian setter.