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Pro Volleyball League: Calicut Heroes races to the playoffs

Smashing success: Calicut Heroes’ C. Ajithlal, left, was in great form against Black Hawks Hyderabad.

Smashing success: Calicut Heroes’ C. Ajithlal, left, was in great form against Black Hawks Hyderabad.  

Ajithlal does the star turn

Olympian Paul Lotman had spoken about how his team applies service pressure on opponents after demolishing Kochi Blue Spikers on Saturday night.

Calicut Heroes was at it again on Sunday as it thrashed Black Hawks Hyderabad for a fourth straight victory in the six-team RuPay Pro Volleyball League at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium and confirmed a semifinal berth.

While captain Jerome Vinith sparkled in their previous game, attacker C. Ajithlal was the Heroes’ hero on Sunday, especially in the opening set, where he produced three super points, one with an ace service and later with two smashes.

The scores were level at eight and 10 but Ajithlal’s super show helped the side pull away. Setter Vipul Kumar knew Ajith was on full flow and he confidently gave him plenty of lifts.

Playing on consecutive days has been a problem for teams here but not for the Heroes. They took chances and were richly rewarded.

Rarely does a team attempt a super point when it leads 10-8 as it would be very risky. But the Heroes did just that in the second set and the gamble paid off with Jerome coming up with a hard smash from the right which left the Hawks’ back court wobbling. That virtually took the second set away from the Hawks.

The Heroes also came up with a strong block with Congo’s tall Illouni Ngampourou, A. Karthik and Paul keeping the Hawks’ dangerman Ashwal Rai at bay frequently and their serves played havoc with their opponent’s first passes.

While Paul was the star of the second set, the third was a close affair. The Hawks set up a soft block for Jerome and with the backcourt supporting it, they drew level at seven. But the Heroes pinned their rivals at this score as Naveen Kumar’s super serve and Ajithlal’s super point helped them race ahead and later, to a 3-0 winning lead.

With the match and semifinal berth in its bag, the Heroes probably were not in a mood to go for the bonus point and allowed the Hawks to take the next two sets.

Ajithlal was the Heroes’ top scorer with 19 points while Jerome (12) and Paul (8) took the next two spots. For Hawks, Ashwal Rai (9) and Rohit Kumar (7) topped the table.

The result: Calicut Heroes bt Black Hawks Hyderabad 15-11, 15-11, 15-7, 12-15, 11-15.

Monday’s match: Kochi Blue Spikers v Chennai Spartans, 7 p.m.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 6:05:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/pro-volleyball-league-calicut-heroes-races-to-the-playoffs/article26231127.ece

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