Defending champion Kolkata Thunderbolts faces 2022 runner-up Ahmedabad Defenders in the last league stage match of the second edition of Prime Volleyball League at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on Thursday.
This clash will be the rematch of last year’s finals when Ashwal Rai’s Thunderbolts completed straight sets win over the league toppers led by Muthusamy Appavu.
Little has changed for the Ahmedabad side across seasons. It continues to top the league, ahead of Kolkata with a solitary point separating the two. Both teams are into the semifinals and will now look to wrestle for the top spot in the standings.
“During PVL 1 their team was different, now it’s different. Some players are the same, while others are new, and have changed their strategy. Even though we have reached the semis, we want to play, give our best and win,” said Ashwal, captain of Thunderbolts.
The 30-year-old middle blocker has been one of the star performers for his team with 17 blocks, only second to Sandoval Jose Antonio of Calicut Heroes, who has 20 to his name.
“I play every match with the mindset that it is my last match. If I perform my best, the team will do well, and if the team does well, there will be less pressure on the team members,” he added.
In a previous interaction with Sportstar, Ashwal had said, “We need to remain defending champions. This is a new tournament; we have to think this way. If we play with the pressure of being defending champions, then we will not be able to focus. This is our strategy, and made sure that the players understand this.”
He is unperturbed by the defending champion tag and said that reaching the semifinals was expected of the team. “There is no pressure for me or the team from the franchise. We tried to work on entering the knockout stage from the beginning, and we succeeded. We did expect to reach the semis.”
A game he hopes won’t repeat itself is the play in Kolkata’s 2-3 loss to the Calicut Heroes, Kolkata’s only loss in the season so far. Ashwal is keen to carry the lessons from that game into the knockouts.
“The match we lost to Calicut was a match, my blocks were weak, and I was unable to concentrate in the tough situation. I would make sure not to make that error.”
In a statement, Defenders attacker Angamuthu said, “We have been preparing well for the match. Kolkata is a strong team and we are waiting to do well against them.”
On being asked about the importance of the match, Angamuthu said, “Yeah, it’s pretty important to finish strongly on top because the mentality will make a huge impact in the finals. So, we would want to finish on top of the table.”
- India kits at Asian Games 2023: What do the patterns on the Indian jerseys signify?
- Manchester United goalkeeper Earps wins England Women’s Player of the Year
- Southee to undergo thumb surgery, ODI World Cup decision next week
- England’s Root to get ODI World Cup practice against Ireland
- Asian Games 2023: Indian debutants to watch out for at Hangzhou