Bengaluru’s Bulgarian striker Tsvetelin Tsvetanov on the serve (source:

Bengaluru’s Bulgarian striker Tsvetelin Tsvetanov on the serve

India’s RuPay Prime Volleyball League powered by A23 regular season is about to climax with the last four games, set to be played this week at the Regional Sports Centre (Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium) in Kochi and determine the remaining three semifinalists, after Ahmedabad Defenders already booked the first ticket to the playoffs last week.

One of the five teams still in contention, defending 2022 champions Kolkata Thunderbolts, will open the new competition week with a game against bottom-of-the-table Chennai Blitz on Monday at 19:00 local time (13:30 UTC). Other than table leaders Ahmedabad, Kolkata are the only team to have suffered a single loss since the start of the season and the only team with two more games to play. Calculations show that winning one of these two matches, on Monday against Chennai or on Thursday against Ahmedabad, would secure Kolkata a place among the last four of the competition.

Last season Thunderbolts managed a 4-1 victory over Blitz. In their regular season encounter, Defenders beat them by 3-2, but when they met again in the gold medal match, Kolkata mastered a 3-0 shutout to celebrate the historic title.

Tuesday’s match will offer a crucial clash between two candidates for the semis, Bengaluru Torpedoes and Calicut Heroes. The winners will be almost certain to qualify for the playoffs. Heroes stand third in the current standings on eight points and a 4-2 win-loss record, and a victory over Torpedoes would book them for the weekend’s semifinals, while Bengaluru are below the cut-off line, in fifth place on six points and 3-3. Any win would raise Bengaluru above fourth-placed Hyderabad Black Hawks, who are done with their regular season matches, but a 4-1 victory or better would make Torpedoes also unreachable for sixth-placed Mumbai Meteors.

When they first met in 2022, Calicut claimed a 4-1 win over Bengaluru.

“We made some errors against Kochi Blue Spikers, but we have learned from them and we have rectified that in training. We are hoping for a good game against Bengaluru,” said Heroes’ outside hitter Ashwin Raj Mahesh. “We have a strong team and we will play as per our own coordination. We will give our best in all the positions and play as per our strengths. We have to win against Bengaluru at any cost so that we can solidify our position for the semifinals. The table is very tight, so we have to get the win."

"We are looking forward to giving our best in this match against Calicut,” Bengaluru’s opposite Ibin Jose commented. “We are focusing on a win that can take us to the playoffs. Even if it's a crucial match for the team, there is no pressure, just more excitement. We are excited to give our all. Playing in my hometown means a lot. It also gives an enormous motivation to give my best on the court.”

Regardless of the final result between Bengaluru and Calicut, league rookies Mumbai will retain a shot at the top four as they face hosts Kochi on Wednesday. However, a 5-0 whitewash is a must for Meteors, because without the three points, they would not be able to climb above Hyderabad in the table. With Blue Spikers out of contention, but playing in front of the home crowd, it will surely be a tough challenge for Mumbai to win in straight sets, but they are one of only two teams to have achieved a 5-0 win so far this season and are certainly capable of doing it again.

During the regular season, each Prime Volleyball League game consists of five sets. A 3-2 or a 4-1 win carries two points towards the standings, while a clear 5-0 victory brings three points to the winners. The top four teams of the final regular season standings will advance to the semifinals.

The RuPay Prime Volleyball League powered by A23 is telecast live on Sony Sports Ten 1 (English), Sony Sports Ten 3 (Hindi), Sony Sports Ten 4 (Tamil and Telugu) and Sony Sports Ten 2 (Malayalam) channels in India and is streamed on **VBTV** outside the Indian subcontinent.

RuPay Prime Volleyball League remaining regular season match schedule in Kochi:

Feb 27, 19:00 local (13:30 UTC): Kolkata Thunderbolts v Chennai Blitz

Feb 28, 19:00 local (13:30 UTC): Bengaluru Torpedoes v Calicut Heroes

Mar 1, 19:00 local (13:30 UTC): Mumbai Meteors v Kochi Blue Spikers

Mar 2, 19:00 local (13:30 UTC): Kolkata Thunderbolts v Ahmedabad Defenders