The final day of action from the Kochi leg of the RuPay Pro Volleyball League 2019 saw the league leaders, Calicut Heroes take on Ahmedabad Defenders at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Kerala.
Calicut Heroes continued their unbeaten run in the league as they won their fifth straight match in Kochi, overcoming the Ahmedabad Defenders with a 4-1 margin (15-14, 11-15, 15-11, 15-9, 15-8).
Jerome Vinith starred for the Calicut Heroes with a haul of 17 points, with 14 spike points and one Super Serve as well. Paul Lotman (14 points) and Ajith Lal C (13 points) were the other major contributors to the Heroes' win.
Both the sides started the first set of the match with high intensity, scoring in tandem as Novika Bjelica landed two strong spikes for the Defenders. Calicut Heroes' skipper Jerome Vinith responded in kind with angled spikes of his own from the outside hitting position to keep it tight on the scoreboard. Jerome and Iluoni Ngampourou produced a spell of four consecutive points for the Calicut side to take advantage in the set as they led 8-6 at the technical timeout.
Karthik produced two thundering spikes from the middle blocker position to take the Heroes into an 11-9 lead in the set. However, Ahmedabad cut the deficit down when Mandeep Singh scored the Super Point and made it 12-12. Ajith Lal landed two spikes to make it interesting, but the Defenders struck back to take it to 14-14 on the scoreboard. It was Paul Lotman's spike that decided the set in favour of the Calicut Heroes as they took it 15-14.
Ahmedabad Defenders' Mandeep Singh and GR Vaishnav got them off to a solid start in the second set at 3-1 but a determined Calicut Heroes got back on level terms at 5-5 with American international Paul Lotman producing timely spikes.
Calicut did their best to contain the Ahmedabad side's run but were not able to stop them despite Jerome Vinith's attempts from the hitter position. Mandeep Singh, Novika Bjelica and Gr Vaishnav were key players for the Defenders as they got their side back into the match at 1-1, claiming the second set with a 15-11 scoreline.
Ahmedabad Defenders came out all guns blazing in the third set of the match and took off into an early lead, capitalizing on the errors committed by the Calicut Heroes. Mandeep Singh continued his strong form with the spikes, landing two points to take his team to a 5-3 lead. However, the Heroes pulled their socks up and produced a good spell of play led by their middle blocker Iluoni Ngampourou, who scored a block and spike to keep it close on the board. The Defenders enjoyed a slim lead of 8-7 at the stroke of the technical timeout.
Paul Lotman turned up the heat on the Defenders, scoring a crucial Super Point after Karthik had got the lead for Heroes with two quick points. Novika kept the Defenders in the hunt with a strong spike but the 'Hydrogen Boy', Ajith Lal C, buried two spikes to win the third set for the Kerala side at 15-11.
The Calicut Heroes continued the momentum and rushed into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set as Paul Lotman continued to outfox the Ahmedabad side with his well-placed spikes. Ajith Lal C soared high and landed two devastating spikes to take them to a 5-0 lead and were on the verge of running away but Ahmedabad Defenders finally opened their account. Paul Lotman scored a Super Serve to inflict more misery on the Defenders as the Heroes led 8-1 at the stroke of the technical timeout.
GR Vaishnav cut back the deficit a bit by winning a Super Point but a couple of errors allowed the Calicut side to extend their lead. Ngampourou produced a strong block and followed it up with a spike to make it 13-5 for the Heroes. Ahmedabad fought back with three points in quick succession, banking on mistakes by the Calicut players Karthik and Vinith. However, Mandeep's error sealed the set for the Calicut side, who won 15-9 in the end and took a 3-1 lead in the match.
The final set of the match saw a similar run of play as the fourth, with the Calicut Heroes enjoying the advantage as Ajith Lal C scored four points before the technical timeout to lead 8-5. Ahmedabad Defenders brought on a couple of substitutes such as Rajat Badolia and Sayyad Mubarak Ali who got a spike point each.
Ahmedabad called for a Super Point being 6-10 down and Ali was on point with his spike to cut the lead down to two points. Calicut responded with a Super Point of their own as skipper Jerome Vinith got the drop right and beat the blockers. Vinith finished the match in style for Calicut Heroes as he landed a Super Serve to close out the set and the match to make it 4-1 on the night.
Impact Player - Jerome Vinith (Calicut Heroes)
Calicut Heroes' skipper Jerome Vinith was at his best for the side, delivering consistent kills from the outside position throughout the match. He scored a total of 17 points and led the way for his team's fifth win on the trot.
The Heroes played their last league match tonight and will enjoy extended rest till the semifinals get underway. Ahmedabad Defenders will take on Chennai Spartans on 17th February in Chennai.