Hyderabad Black Hawks’ Guru Prashanth earns MVP award
Ahmedabad Defenders won the trophy in the second season of the RuPay Prime Volleyball League powered by A23 in India. Last year’s silver medallists snatched their first gold after a dramatic five-set win over Bengaluru Torpedoes in Kochi on Sunday and, in addition to the crown, they also earned the right to compete at the FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship, which will be hosted by India in December 2023.
Under a special multi-year partnership agreement with Volleyball World, it was the first Prime Volleyball League season streamed globally, live and on demand, in its entirety on VBTV.
Prime Volleyball League 2023 was played in a unique format over a period of about a month. During the eight-team single round-robin regular season, each game lasted five sets, regardless of how the score developed. Any win by 3-2 or 4-1 would bring two points towards the general standings, while a 5-0 whitewash would bring three points. In each set, the first team to reach 15 points would win the set, even if the margin was just one point. So sets were never extended to “overtime”.
At the end of the league phase, the top four teams in the standings advanced to the semifinals. The winners of the semifinals met in the final for the championship title. The three playoff matches were played in a standard best-of-five format, but still with sets to 15. A two-point margin was needed here to win a set, but had one team reached 21 points, the set would have been over.
Iran’s Danial Moatazedi of Ahmedabad tries to overcome Bengaluru’s blockers (Photo credits: primevolleyballleague.com)
Among the several other key innovations to the rules of the game applied in the Prime Volleyball League, the one that stands out is the so-called Super Serve, a serving ace with the ball landing on the floor without touching any of the opponent’s players, which brings the team two points.
Ahmedabad Defenders finished the regular season in second place on 11 points and a 5-2 win-loss record. In the semifinals, they claimed a 3-1 (17-15, 9-15, 17-15, 15-11) victory over third-placed Calicut Heroes on Saturday, while fourth-placed Bengaluru Torpedoes produced a sensational 3-1 (15-10, 10-15, 15-13, 15-10) upset of regular season winners and defending 2022 champions Kolkata Thunderbolts on Friday.
Underdogs Bengaluru put up a great battle in Sunday’s final to push it to a tie-breaker, but Ahmedabad lived up to their status of favourites and triumphed after a 3-2 (15-7, 15-10, 18-20, 13-15, 15-10) victory. Ahmedabad’s opposite Angamuthu Ramaswamy was the best scorer of the final with 16 spiking points to his name, including the game winner, and was named Player of the Match. Outside hitter Santhosh Santhosh contributed 11 points (8 spikes, 2 aces, 1 block). Outside Pankaj Sharma was Torpedoes’ most productive player, also with 11 points, all in offence.
“We actually thought we could finish it off in the three sets, but they played extraordinarily well, so we had to fight on,” Angamuthu said after the match. “To be the champions is not easy, but we fought well.”
2023 Prime Volleyball League champions Ahmedabad Defenders (Photo credits: primevolleyballleague.com)
Guru Prashanth, opposite of fifth-placed Hyderabad Black Hawks, became the first player in the history of the league to reach 100 points within a single season. He topped the PVL 2023 best scorers’ ranking with a total of 114 points and earned the Most Valuable Player award.
FIVB General Director Fabio Azevedo, Volleyball World CEO Finn Taylor and FIVB Head of Technical & Development Steve Tutton took part in the spectacular awarding ceremony after the end of the final, when a total of eight individual awards were presented, in addition to the championship trophy and the medals to the finalists.
Fabio Azevedo, Finn Taylor and Steve Tutton watching the final (Photo credits: primevolleyballleague.com)
Most Valuable Player: Guru Prashanth (Hyderabad Black Hawks)
Best Libero: Ramanathan R (Chennai Blitz)
Best Blocker: Jose Antonio Sandoval (Calicut Heroes)
Best Setter: Ukkra Pandian Mohan (Calicut Heroes)
Best Spiker: Guru Prashanth (Hyderabad Black Hawks)
Emerging Player of the Season: Ibin Jose (Bengaluru Torpedoes)
Fantasy Player of the Season: Nandagopal Subramaniyam (Ahmedabad Defenders)
Best Coach of the Season: S Dakshinamoorthy (Ahmedabad Defenders)