PVL: Kochi Blue Spikers enters semis after comeback win against Spartans

Down and virtually out after losing the first two sets, Kochi Blue Spikers scripted a brilliant comeback to defeat Chennai Spartans.

Prabagaran and Mohan Ukkrapandian rose to the occassion as Kochi Blue Spikers came from two sets behind to clinch a thriller.   -  Twitter

Down and virtually out after losing the first two sets, Kochi Blue Spikers scripted a brilliant comeback to defeat Chennai Spartans 3-2 and entered the semifinals of the Pro Volleyball League at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium in Kochi on Monday.

The Blue Spikers completed their league engagements with four wins in the six-team event and for the Spartans, it was their second loss from three encounters. They will now head home to Chennai for the rest of their league.

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The Spartans’ star spiker, Canadian Rudy Verhoeff, was in awesome form but the Blue Spikers' strong bench pulled it through. Though Manu Joseph, one of the home team’s stars, appeared a bit jaded, K. Praveen Kumar rose to the occasion and was among the home team’s top scorers along with S. Prabagaran.

“We were a bit slow in the first two sets but we recovered well. Many of the Chennai players know me well so I did not pull out my usual bag of tricks, I did not use the drop today,” said the home captain Mohan Ukkrapandian, who played the setter’s role with aplomb.

G.S. Akhin was the Spartans’ star in the opening set with his smashes upsetting the Blue Spikers’ rhythm. But he injured his leg in the next set and lost much of his sting as he walked gingerly whenever he came in after that. The Spartans’ Naveen Raja Jacob, who produced an inspiring show in the previous match, was good in the second set but he looked off-colour for a major part after that.

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The two teams were level at 4-4 in the third set but the Blue Spikers broke away to an 8-4 lead. That appeared to be the turning point but Rudy, with his efficient crosscourt spiking, helped the Spartans draw level at nine. A little later, a smash by Praveen on a super point took the Blue Spikers to 13-10 and virtually broke the Spartans’ back.

Having got their big breakthrough, the Blue Spikers raised their game in the next two sets. Former Olympic gold medallist David Lee was the the chief motivator and that saw libero Hari Prasad bring out his best. Andrej Patuc did not figure much in attack but he stood out in the block and the back court and was adjudged the man of the match.

The result: Kochi Blue Spikers bt Chennai Spartans 12-15, 10-15, 15-11, 15-13, 15-10.

Tuesday’s match: U Mumba Volley v Black Hawks Hyderabad, 7 p.m.