PVL: U Mumba Volley registers first win

U Mumba Volley started the second leg of the Pro Volleyball league with a 3-2 win over host Chennai Spartans.

Tomislav Coskovic (red jersery) of U Mumba Volley puts it past the Chennai Spartans blockers.   -  M. Vedhan

U Mumba Volley kept itself in contention for the last semifinal spot with a 3-2 victory over Chennai Spartans in the penultimate league match for both teams. U Mumba put a stamp on the match by winning the first three sets 15-14, 15-8, 15-10 before Chennai salvaged pride by winning the final two sets 15-10, 15-10. Chennai plays Ahmedabad Defenders on Sunday and each of these three teams is involved in the battle for the last semifinal spot, which could be decided by a set difference.

On the evidence of this display, however, Chennai needs to be a lot more clinical and overcome the tendency to implode. In its previous match, it lost a match from being two sets up and here, it began the first set brilliantly and fell away inexplicably to lose the first three sets in succession. By winning the fourth and fifth sets, however, it ensured its set difference didn’t take a beating (its set difference after this loss is -2).

U Mumba came from behind to win the first set, snapping up seven of the last eight points to win the set 15-14. At 13-8, Chennai Spartans opted for Super Point, which was the first of many opportunities to close out the set. But desperation crept in (which was inexplicable) and it committed a series of unforced errors to concede the set it had been in control of. Timely spikes from Pankaj Sharma and Tomislav Coskovic — when U Mumba was 13-14 down and at 14-14 — put a stamp on the first set. Even a timeout when it was leading 14-12 didn’t make a difference.

In the post-match press conference, Chennai captain, Shelton Moses, bemoaned the failure to harness the opportunity to win the first set. “We struggled to receive and attack altogether. But we hope to rectify this issue next time,” said Moses.

The conclusion of the first set had an effect in the way the two teams began the second, with U Mumba taking a 4-0 lead before Chennai Spartans got on board. Dipesh Kumar Sinha won two of those points with two blocks. He fired two spikes at 4-1 and 5-3 before Vinit Kumar and Prince helped wrest control of the second set with a combined three blocks and two spikes. Chennai never really recovered from conceding an 8-3 lead and won just five more points, losing the second set 15-8.

Riding the momentum

Two sets to nil up, U Mumba had momentum but also a rattled opposition on the other side of the net. And it took advantage of the situation to put a stamp on the match by winning the third set.

The third set was very even until the midway point. Rudy Verhoeff, the Canadian attacker, fired a quartet of spikes and made a Super Serve at 6-7 to fire Chennai to an 8-7 lead at the halfway stage. But Pankaj Sharma and Prince sparked a change in momentum with a spike and block respectively after the technical timeout. At 9-11 down, Chennai opted for Super Point, which it had to win to not cede more ground. Saqlain Tariq, a setter, blocked a Naveen Raja spike at the net to give U Mumba a 13-9 lead. He made another block at 13-10 and then served an ace to win the set for U Mumba, giving it an unassailable 3-0 lead in the match.  

U Mumba slackened considerably in the final two sets, committing 16 unforced errors — which was six more than it totally made in the first three sets combined (10) — and making life difficult for itself. Chennai benefitted from U Mumba’s errors but it made better use of Super Point and Super Serve in the final two sets and they made a considerable difference in the final equation. A 2-3 defeat means Chennai’s set difference, which was -1 coming into this match, is now -2 (two better than U Mumba and three better than Ahmedabad Defenders).