Service switch brings rich rewards for Rudy Verhoeff

The ball used in Pro Volleyball League prompted the Canadian Universal to switch from his usual serve to a serve that's more effective.

Rudy Verhoeff fires a spike in Chennai Spartans' league match against Ahmedabad Defenders.   -  M. Vedhan

Universal Rudy Verhoeff (Canada) has been a key player in Chennai Spartans’ run to the semifinals. He has scored almost 40 per cent of his team’s spike points (69 out of 173). Also, hes got the most spike points in the league stage.

But one marked difference, by his own admission, is his switch from float serve to spike serve. It’s served him rather well, going by his performance so far. He’s a specialist float server, though.

He says the reason for his switch is the ball that’s been used in the league. “Here, I’ve been spike-serving with power. The main reason is the ball is different here. This ball drops with topspin. Whereas, the Mikasa ball that’s normally used in the International competitions floats a lot more than this ball does. Personally, I’ve had a hard time float serving with this ball, but then there’s this super serve rule (two points for the serve that hits the ground directly, untouched by any opposition player) here that makes it advantageous to hit the ball hard and try hit it to the ground.

“Whereas, with the float serve you often get an ace ‘cause the ball is moving and the receiver doesn’t succeed. With spike serve, you can get the ball to hit the ground more often.

“Almost the very first time we played with this ball, I knew what type of ball it is. So the combination of the type of ball and the super serve, made me decide it’s best to spike serve. And, so far, it’s been going well. I mean, I’ve had a pretty good result.”

Verhoeff says it’s been easy for him to bond with attacker Ruslans Sorokins (Latvia) since they both have experienced the European/Western style of volleyball that’s helped them have a similar approach to the game. “Also, everything here is new for both of us,” he adds. This is the first time the two players have been playing together.

Sorokins says the Indian style of volleyball is “powerful volleyball”.

“Like, spiking hard. Less thinking, I would say. I’m sure they have strategies, but they are different from the ones we’re used to. But sometimes they need to play a bit simpler,” he adds.

Verhoeff stressed on the importance of team synergy and that Chennai had experienced the effect of the lack of it. “Like, in our game against U Mumba, we all went different ways and we didn’t have a good result (Chennai lost 2-3). We all had a talk after that game. So, I think it’s important to try keep everyone together or going in the same direction.”

Sorokins says the league shouldn’t be a one-off and is to be continued. “Bring in a lot more foreign coaches, maybe.”

He adds it will be good for Chennai to settle score with Kochi (Blue Spikers) in the semifinal on Wednesday, having lost to it in the league stage. Verhoeff says it will be “interesting to see” how Kochi plays outside Kochi (having played all games in Kochi so far).