CHENNAI: As Chennai Spartans players and fans celebrated their entry into the semifinals of the Pro Volleyball league on Sunday, Rudy Verhoeff jumped over the barricades and rushed into their midst. The roars of the fans grew even louder. The team had established local players like Naveen Raja Jacob and Shelton Moses who had been playing in front of the city’s volley fans for more than a decade, but here was a foreign star rivalling them in popularity stakes after just two games!
The Canadian has been Chennai’s driving force so far and one of the best players in the league. He leads the spike point list with 69 points, quite a big chunk of the 173 that Chennai have managed as a team. As the team faced Ahmedabad Defenders on Sunday knowing anything less than a win would lead to elimination, it was Rudy who dragged them through, producing another dominant display.
“This is my second time in India — I first came here in 2009 to play the World Junior Championships in Pune,” Rudy says. “So far, my experience has been great because everything has been really professional. The club has been run really well. I’ve played in a lot of clubs in many different countries and I would say things are top notch here. They’ve taken care of us really well.”
Rudy is impressed with the crowds that the league has managed to attract despite this being the inaugural season. “I was saying to someone the other day, that right now the crowds have been pretty good and the league is quite happy,” he says. “The only other countries where I have seen this in volleyball is Poland and Italy, maybe Japan too. As far as a fanbase is concerned, this league will do really well.”
But the Olympian, who was part of the Canadian side that finished fifth in Rio, says there is still a long way to go for both PVL and for Indian volley. “I think there is a long way to go,” he says. “But I think everyone knew that while coming. Obviously, the Indian national team had some success but not a whole lot. But the really positive thing is there are fantastic players in this league. And now that they’re starting to get more exposure to the international game, maybe they will start to adapt. It seems as though most of the teams play the same style. There are good things but there are also obvious things that need to be changed.
“My philosophy about volleyball is that you should go for the most efficient way to win. Teams here are running lots of combinations but if you look at them, they’re not actually that efficient. Indians are very good at attacking but they need to improve at blocking and defence.”
Calicut Heroes outplay U Mumba to enter final
Calicut Heroes marched into the final with a 3-0 victory over U Mumba Volley at the Nehru Indoor Stadium here. The unbeaten Calicut team did not give their opponents time to breathe, taking the first two sets 15-12 and 15-9. U Mumba put up bit more of a fight in the third, but Calicut eventually prevailed 16-14.