The inaugural edition of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League 2019 came to its conclusion with Chennai Spartans defeating Calicut Heroes in straight sets to clinch the championship.
Chennai Spartans won 3-0 (15-11, 15-12, 16-14) against the Heroes to hand the Kerala franchise their first loss in this year's edition of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League.
Canadian international Rudy Verhoeff was the top scorer for the Chennai Spartans, finishing with a haul of 13 points and was ably supported by Naveen Raja Jacob, who finished with 8 points. Calicut Heroes' star Ajith Lal C scored nine points, all coming from spikes.
The grand finale began on a strong note for the home side, Chennai Spartans as they took the early charge in the first set, taking a 4-2 lead in quick time. A few errors from the Chennai side allowed the Calicut-based side to stay close on the scoreboard but Chennai continue to remain in the driving seat at the timeout, leading 8-5.
Calicut came out strong after the break and kept the gap at three points. However, the Spartans, buoyed by the home support, maintained the game and wrapped up the first set at 15-11. Verhoeff got the final blow when he scored a disguised spike to beat the Calicut blockers and get the 1-0 advantage in the match for the Chennai side.
The Calicut Heroes side looked out of their elements in the first set with none of their lead spikers - Ajith Lal C and Jerome Vinith scoring consistently. Meanwhile, Chennai's Verhoeff and Naveen Raja Jacob delivered four points each for the side.
Calicut skipper, Jerome Vinith's poor run continued at the start of the second set with the Universal conceding three points in a row, two of them from his spikes. However, his spiking partner Ajith Lal C finally came to the part, scoring thunderous spikes to keep the sides on level-pegging terms. A thrilling contest ensued through the second set with the two sides successfully winning their Super Points. But Chennai edged ahead after 12-10 and closed the set at 15-12 to take a comfortable 2-0 set lead in the match.
Calicut Heroes' spiking sensation, Ajith picked up form after a lacklustre first set but found little support from his teammates. On the other side of the court, Verhoeff continued to dominate the proceedings with a haul of seven points including the final set-winning block for the Spartans.
The Chennai-based side continued their momentum from the two set wins and kept the pressure up on the Heroes, forcing errors from them. Rudy scored two spike points from the outside attacking position and Ruslans Sorokins' service point saw them lead 8-5 at the timeout. Calicut bounced back and led 11-8 in the set after a good spell of play with points from Ajith Lal and Paul Lotman.
Chennai came back into the set with a strong spell of play by the middle blocker, Akhin GS. He scored two block points and a spike point to overturn the deficit and get the set point. Ajith Lal's spike saved the subsequent match point for Calicut but Jerome's long service handed Chennai the advantage again. Jerome committed another error on his spike as Chennai wrapped up the match at 16-14 to become the champions of the inaugural RuPay Pro Volleyball League.
Impact Player - Rudy Verhoeff (Chennai Spartans)
Rudy Verhoeff was the star of the final for the Chennai Spartans, scoring a tally of 13 points, which included 11 spike points and two blocks. He was the key man in the first two sets for the Spartans and reached the milestone of 100 points during the course of the match.
Chennai Spartans will now represent India at the 2019 Asian Men's Club Volleyball Championship to be held later this year.