C. Ajithlal, among the youngest in his team at 22, produced a sparkling show as Calicut Heroes defeated Chennai Spartans 4-1 in their RuPay Pro Volleyball League opener at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium in Kochi on Sunday.

The Thiruvananthapuram youngster stood out with his fine cross-court smashes that troubled the Spartans all through the match. True to its name, Calicut appeared to be packed with heroes. It had American Olympian Paul Lotman, and Indian internationals C. Jerome Vinith and A. Karthik - who had led Karnataka to a rare triumph in the Senior Nationals recently.

Unlike its rival, Calicut appeared young and fresh. And virtually each set had a dominant character. It was the tall Karthik who stood out in the opening set. His serves rattled Chennai and at one stage Calicut won seven straight points on his serve.

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Calicut led 13-2 in the opening set and 7-3 in the next as it won the first two sets comfortably with the team combining well and with Ajithlal standing out frequently with his smashes that found their way through the block or caught an edge. Meanwhile, captain Jerome was outstanding from the flanks.

There were many aging faces in Chennai but the arrival of Naveen Raja, replacing Latvian Ruslans Sorokins, in the third set turned the match sharply. Naveen virtually brought the team back to life with his smashes and serves, taking one with a bonus point. The scores were close and Canadian Rudy Veheoff and Akhin helped Chennai take the set.

Calicut raced to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set and that stood the team in good stead. The team combined well and took a winning 3-1 lead in the match. The rest was a formality.

In the league-opening clash on Saturday , Kochi Blue Spikers beat U Mumba Volley 4-1.

The result: Calicut Heroes bt Chennai Spartans: 15-7, 15-8, 13-15, 15-11, 15-11.