Ahmedabad Defenders (source: primevolleyballleague.com)

Ahmedabad Defenders are the 2023 champions of India’s RuPay Prime Volleyball League powered by A23. In Sunday’s dramatic final in Kochi, they persevered through a five-set battle with Bengaluru Torpedoes to snatch a 3-2 (15-7, 15-10, 18-20, 13-15, 15-10) victory and their first title in the history of the competition after finishing runners-up in the 2022 inaugural season. In addition to the PVL trophy, Ahmedabad earned the right to compete at December’s FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship 2023 to be held in India.

For surprising finalists Bengaluru, it was the first silver medals. Last year they failed to make it to the semifinals and this season they grabbed a last-minute ticket to the playoffs as the fourth-placed team of the regular season and went on all the way to the big final.

Defenders were quite emphatic in winning the first two sets of the match, but in the third, Torpedoes put up a tough fight. They wasted a few set points, but also denied the two championship points Ahmedabad had at 16-15 and 17-16, and eventually won the set deep into overtime to stay alive in the match. Bengaluru managed a comeback in the fourth set to win it as well and push the match to five. In the tie-breaker, Defenders regained control and made sure they put a stop to Torpedoes’ fantastic underdog story. Ahmedabad’s opposite Angamuthu Ramaswamy spiked for the match winner and set off Defenders’ triumphant celebrations as the new champions of the Prime Volleyball League.

With a total of 16 points to his name, Angamuthu was the best scorer of the final and was honoured as Player of the Match. Outside hitter Santhosh Santhosh added another 11, while his Bengaluru counterpart Pankaj Sharma also scored 11 times to top the charts on his side of the net.

“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.”

Despite missing out on the playoffs with fifth-placed Hyderabad Black Hawks, opposite Guru Prashanth 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 (2 aces, 10 blocks, 102 spikes) and that earned him the Most Valuable Player award.

At a spectacular ceremony after the end of the final, another seven individual awards were presented.

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)

Ahmedabad advanced to the final after a 3-1 (17-15, 9-15, 17-15, 15-11) semifinal victory over Calicut Heroes on Saturday, with Angamuthu leading the way with 13 points. In the other semifinal on Friday, Bengaluru produced a sensational upset of regular season winners and defending champions Kolkata Thunderbolts with Pankaj Sharma contributing a match-high 12 points towards a 3-1 (15-10, 10-15, 15-13, 15-10) win.