CHENNAI : For a large part of the inaugural Pro Volleyball league, they looked dead and buried. When they arrived in Chennai for the final run of league phase matches, their chances of qualifying were more mathematical than realistic. Yet when the dust settles on the league phase, U Mumba Volley have somehow managed to sneak in their name among the semifinal pairings.
Before they came to Chennai, their ledger read ‘played-3, lost-3’. Yet victory in their last two matches has allowed U Mumba to sneak into fourth place ahead of Black Hawks Hyderabad, who have the same number of points (4) but are worse off on set difference.
If their win against Chennai Spartans on Sunday was closely-fought, their 4-1 demolition of bottom-side Ahmedabad Defenders was anything but. It started with a hiccup — U Mumba were guilty of taking their time to get into the match as Ahmedabad took the first set 15-10. But once they had hit their stride, Mumbai ceded their opponents little ground. The second set went U-Mumba’s way 15-12 as did the third by a score of 15-13. A 15-12 win the fourth confirmed the match and a semifinal berth for them. They celebrated that in style by taking the final set 15-8.
The road ahead will not be easy for U Mumba though with them taking on the imperious Calicut Heroes in the first semifinal on Tuesday. Calicut did not lose a single match in the group phase. Their astounding domination is visible in their set difference of 13 — Kochi Blue Spikers and Chennai Spartans have the next best score with 1.The other semifinal will be contested between Kochi and Chennai on Wednesday. Their last encounter had ended in a hotly-contest 3-2 victory to Kochi. But Chennai will have home advantage this time.
A series of rule changes have also been introduced in the semifinals. In the event of scores being 14-14 in any of the sets, the team that first establishes a difference of two will end up winning the set. If the score reaches 20-20, the 21st point will decide the set.The teams will be given one referral per set. The referral will be lost once taken by a team irrespective of whether the team wins or loses the referral. The referral can only be used for net-touch, touch-out and line calls.