After winning the inaugural edition of the Pro Volleyball League, Chennai Spartans are having a good run at the 2019 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship being held in Chinese Taipei.

The team, which has some of the biggest names of the Pro Volleyball League, has won matches against clubs from Thailand, Qatar, Australia and the host nation. On Wednesday, they defeated Vietnamese club T.P HCM in straight sets 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 to reach the semi-finals. They have become the first Indian club to reach the final four of this tournament.

The Spartans didn’t start off their campaign on a bright note when they suffered a defeat at the hands of Kazakhstan’s TNC Kazchrome but haven’t looked back since then. Powered by some solid performances by Jerome Vineeth, they went on to claim successive wins in their next four games, the latest of which came against home team Taichung Bank in a tiebreaker.

Rudy Verhoeff and Ruslans Sorokins, who were pivotal to Spartans’ PVL title-winning campaign in February, have been vital cogs in the wheel for the team in Chinese Taipei as well. But it’s the Indian talent of Jerome Vineeth and Aswal Rai which has made heads turn in the tournament.

Verhoeff, who represented Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics, heaped praise on Vineeth, saying, “He has been outstanding for us from the start of the tournament and it’s great that he has carried forward his superb form from the Pro Volleyball League to here. It’s great for everyone in the team to play around such a confident individual as it lifts our spirits up.”

Vineeth attributed his good form to keeping his focus intact despite suffering a heartbreaking loss in the finals of the PVL where he turned out for the Calicut franchise. He said, “I was enjoying a rich vein of form in the league and although the results of the final didn’t go our way, I just didn’t want to dwell on that loss for too long and got back into practice mode soon after. It’s a great honour to be representing India at any level and doing well. I am hoping to keep doing the good work and leading the Spartans to the title.”

Chennai skipper Shelton Moses expressed his joy at the performance of the team but cautioned against complacency. He said, “The way we lost the first game, we were not too happy with ourselves for we knew what we are capable of achieving. The results in the following games is the reflection of the confidence we have in us as a team. However, it’s important to not lose focus, especially now that the tournament has reached the knockout stage.”