KOCHI: It seems Calicut Heroes have cracked the code when it comes to the Pro Volleyball League. They have now won all their league matches and there are doubts whether any team can beat them.
On Wednesday, they beat Ahmedabad Defenders 4-1 (15-14, 11-15, 15-11, 15-9, 15-8) at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium. As for Ahmedabad Defenders, they have now lost all three of their matches so far and are bottom of the league with zero points. However, they are still in with a chance with two games remaining.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Calicut despite the flattering scoreline. The victory was largely down to the efforts of Paul Lotman. Olympian, FIVB World League and World Cup gold medalist, Lotman demonstrated what a quality overseas player brings to a team.
Lotman put in a complete performance. His serves and spikes oozed quality. He turned out to be the difference between the two sides.
The start was quite different. Led by captain Ranjit Singh, Ahmedabad made Calicut do all the defending in the initial stages. Teammate Mandeep Singh’s impressive net play also helped. However, Calicut kept clawing back thanks to Lotman. Ahmedabad were serving for the first set at 14-14, but Lotman got a cross court spike in to win Calicut the set. Calicut have dominated all their previous encounters but for once, Ahmedabad were bullying the leaders as they won the second set 15-11.
Even though senior players and national team regulars like Jerome and A Karthik were off-colour, Lotman kept bailing them out. Despite the early domination by Ahmedabad, Calicut soaked up the pressure and made it 2-1. While Lotman’s quality and experience was rubbing off on his teammates, the foreign players of Ahmedabad, Victor Sysoev and Novica Bjelica, were not able to make much of an impression. In the fourth set, Bjelica had his hands on his hips as his team was unable to cope with the pressure applied by Calicut.
At one stage in the fourth, Ahmedabad were down 9-2 but complacency crept into Calicut’s game as they started leaking points. But eventually their firepower proved too much as they pocketed the set 15-9 to seal victory to maintain their winning streak.