PVL: Kochi Blue Spikers sinks Ahmedabad Defenders in thriller

Kochi Blue Spikers prevailed over Ahmedabad Defenders 3-2 in a see-saw clash of Pro Volleyball League.

David Lee (right) of Kochi Blue Spikers attempts a smash during a PVL match against Ahmedabad Defenders.   -  H. VIBHU

Kochi Blue Spikers kept their cool under pressure and pulled off an exciting 3-2 victory over Ahmedabad Defenders in the RuPay Pro Volleyball League at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium here on Wednesday. It was the Blue Spikers’ second victory from as many matches in the six-team league.

The Defenders appeared well prepared for this match, they looked much better than their opening encounter. And Gurinder Singh, the former India captain, helped the side race to a 4-0 lead in the opening set with a clever drop followed by a block that stopped Manu Joseph and then came two strong spikes. That left the home boys gasping.

But they did recover well in the next set, taking a 13-9 lead with American David Lee doing some good work early with two smashes and Manu Joseph helping the Blue Spikers to a neat finish with two spikes towards the end.

The teams were error-prone in the next two sets and then the super points, which are making their debut in this new league, began to do strange things.

With David Lee, pairing up with Manu and then with S. Prabagaran, sorting out Gurinder with a two-man block, the Blue Spikers moved to a 6-3 lead but a little later, the teams were level at 11. At this stage, the Defenders won two super points – one after the home side’s four-touch error and another after Manu was blocked – to take the third set.

The Defenders enjoyed an 8-4 lead in the fourth set, shortly after the Blue Spikers captain Ukkrapandian’s dependable drop surprisingly failed to clear the net. Russian Victor Sysoev sparkled for a brief with his smashes. But the home side levelled at eight with two super points with K. Praveen Kumar bringing a crucial one with his smash.

The teams were level at 11-11 but a Prabhagaran smash and a little later a three-man block that stopped Victor had the Blue Spikers smiling as the match went to the decider.

After letting the fourth set slip through their fingers, the Defenders appeared to be under tremendous pressure in the decider. Interestingly, the game pitted the country’s two finest setters, Defenders’ Ranjit Singh and the Blue Spikers’ Ukkrapandian.

And Ukkrapandian came out with flying colours in the decider, with some smart serves, which included an ace that brought two points and took the home side to a 6-1 lead. Praveen also impressed with his serves and smashes and in the end, Ranjit netted his serve under pressure.

“It’s good to get tight games in the league stage, it will help us get stronger in the knockouts,” said Ukkrapandian, the Indian captain.

“For the second successive match, we were unlucky,” said the Defenders’ skipper Ranjit Singh.

The result: Kochi Blue Spikers bt Ahmedabad Defenders 10-15, 15-11, 11-15, 15-12, 15-12.

Thursday’s match: Chennai Spartans vs Black Hawks Hyderabad, 7pm.