Comes up with a sterling show against Chargers in final round-robin game

Chennai Spikers came up with a sterling performance in the must-win final round-robin game against strong contender Hyderabad Chargers to score an impressive 25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 25-17 victory and take the honours in the inaugural edition of the Indian Volley League at the Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy Indoor Stadium here on Friday.

Rising to the occasion, the Chennai squad lifted its game so well that Chargers, but for the flashes of brilliance in the second set, was clearly inferior in many aspects of the game.

Kapil the hero

The seasoned K.J. Kapil Dev donned the role of setter very well, and his accurate first pass repeatedly set it up for his teammates Mandeep Singh, Navjit Singh and captain J. Nadarajan to execute those traditional telling smashes. In a way, it was Kapil who controlled the game so well almost right through.

For Chargers, it was just the opposite. It was obvious that it had to get the first-pass right to stay in the game but that was not to be as Sube Singh was off colour and Lavmeet Katariya was erratic. That Chargers had to look to a not fully fit Kasi Viswanadha Raju (his right hand was strapped due to an old injury) as the match progressed was a sign of desperation for the team. Chargers had the support of the crowd but the team lacked coordination on the court.

Flying start

Chennai was off to a flying start in the first set with Navjit Singh and Prabhakaran combining effectively at the net to exploit Chargers' weak double-block. It was in this set that Mandeep Singh set the tempo with some big points. And there were too many service errors also from Chargers.

In the second set, Chargers came up with a better performance mainly due to V.R. Sanoj's superb display. The Chennai defence was suddenly tested as Sanoj began to dominate with Raju providing good support in the back court.

However, it was one-sided from the third set as Chennai changed gears and gave no chance for Chargers to come back into the match. Like in the previous games, Chennai preferred the drops to change the pace of the game which confused the already disjointed Chargers' defence.

If the home crowd thought Chargers would put up a fight, it had to return disappointed as Chennai was in no mood to relax. Nadarajan was outstanding at the net with lovely interceptions and scoring important points with solid support from Navjit and P. Rohith.

When Nadarajan successfully employed the block to score the final point for Chennai, the jubilation was understandable.

“The focus was on receiving the serve and setting up the high balls for the spikers to come up with those big points. I am really pleased with the way Kapil played today. Full credit to him as he made things very easy for us,” said an elated Chennai coach A. Venkatesan later.

“We knew that once we controlled the game at the net, Chargers will find it difficult to dominate,” he said. “Definitely, I am delighted to be the winning coach of the first edition of IVL,” he added.

Chargers' coach M.H. Kumara was modest enough to give Kapil the credit for Chennai's victory. “He was the culprit from our point of view,” he said with a smile.

“Our first pass let us down right through the match and this made it very difficult for us,” he added.

The results (final round):

Chennai Spikers bt Hyderabad Chargers 25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 25-17; Maratha Warriors bt Kerala Killers 25-18, 25-20, 25-14; Yanam Tigers bt Karnataka Bulls 25-18, 19-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-12.

Top-3 standings: 1. Chennai Spikers, 2. Hyderabad Chargers, 3. Yanam Tigers.

Most valuable player: Gurvinder Singh (Hyderabad Chargers).