PVL Final: Home crowd made the win possible, says Chennai Spartans coach

Chennai Spartans coach M.H. Kumara hailed his team's efforts after it clinched the inaugural Pro Volleyball League title by beating Calicut Heroes in the final.

Chennai Spartan coach H.S. Kumara celebrates a point with Rudy Verhoeff.   -  Pro Volleyball Twitter

Chennai Spartans coach M.H. Kumara, said that the experience of having suffered defeats in the league stage helped his team to get the better of Calicut Heroes in Friday's Pro Volleyball League final. He also put the victory, which was achieved in straight sets, down to team effort.

“It’s a great victory, everyone contributed to the win. We don’t have one hero, but heroes, it’s a team sport. They reached the final without suffering [the pain of defeat], but we came here with a lot of suffering and it prepared us for the final. When we assembled at the team hotel, I could see the players’ readiness for a match like this. The Chennai crowd made the victory possible for us,” he said.

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“We have six elements in volleyball: service, reception, setting, attacking, blocking and dig. We knew that if they failed with their service, we can take advantage. In India, we don’t focus on reception. [But,] like sa re ga ma pa in music, reception is a fundamental in volleyball,” he added.

Rudy Verhoeff, who finished the tournament with the most points (106) and the highest spike points (88), said that blunting Calicut’s serve was instrumental to the win.

“They [Calicut Heroes] are a phenomenal team. They are a team who rely heavily on their serve and we managed it well, and that was the key. When your team relies so heavily on the serve, it’s a risky game. I have never played in front of a crowd like that before.

“Playing in front of such huge crowds is a huge advantage: while you focus on the volleyball, they take care of the emotional support. It gives me a lot of joy to see people become happy watching us play,” he observed.

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Asked about his experience and what steps could be taken to better the league, the Canadian Universal said, “The tournament was run professionally. We were very fortunate that we played the final here [in Chennai]. Most leagues would operate in the home-and-away format, so that aspect could be changed. We were lucky to play in front of our home crowd today.”

G.S. Akhin, one of the team’s blockers and who sparked the comeback for Chennai when it was 10-13 down in the third set, said, “We are very happy. People had written us off, that we wouldn’t reach the final. But it’s a lesson that no one should be underestimated.”

-Failure to take our chances cost us-

Paul Lotman bemoaned Calicut Heroes’ failure to take its chance when it was 13-10 up in the third set and attributed his team’s defeat to being put under pressure by Chennai Spartans and the crowd, which, according to him, was the “seventh man on the court”.

“[We] have to give credit to Chennai for the great match [it played]. [We’re] pretty disappointed obviously. We were in a new situation with a team taking the first set off us. We had a chance in the third set [when we led 13-10], and we didn’t take it. And against a good team, if you don’t take your chance, you’re not going to win.

“I don’t know if it was the extra pressure we put on ourselves, we felt like we played with pressure, with a weight on our back, but I don’t know why. [The crowd can be] the seventh man on the court and make it difficult environment to play in, and it showed tonight,” he said.

Talking about his experience of playing in the league and in the country, the American attacker said, “I have been very happy to come here and it’s been a great experience for me. [This is] not the way I wanted to finish, but innovations such as the Super Point is something FIVB is taking notice and it’s great for the game.”

Calicut captain, C. Jerome Vinith, said the inaugural edition of the PVL has been a learning curve for players like him and they benefited from playing alongside experienced heads like Lotman.

“We are learning from players like Paul Lotman and he is a big reason why I have been able to perform the way I have,” he said.