Cool Smashers win PVL Open via sweep of finals

JEMA GALANZA delivers the lethal blows.

JEMA GALANZA played the role of silent but lethal operator as Creamline scored a 25-18, 15-25, 25-23, 25-16 victory over the Petro Gazz to win the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference crown before a jampacked crowd at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City on Friday night.

Galanza scattered three crucial points in varying fashions for the Cool Smashers who broke loose from a 10-9 fourth set for a 17-11 lead they never relinquished.

Alyssa Valdez then did what she does best and closed out out their rivals with her vaunted power blasts and an ace and Jia de Guzman and Celine Domingo capped the romp with a quick play for a sweep of the race-to-two championship series.

As De Guzman fell on the floor and the Cool Smashers whooped it up before a raucous crowd of over 7,000, confetti rained down the court, marking the return of the Cool Smashers to the throne at the very venue where they left with heads bowed after falling to the Angels in the 2019 Reinforced Conference finals.

“It’s worth all the sacrifices after we came up short the first time out,” said Galanza, referring to their setback to the Chery TIggo Crossovers in the league’s pro inaugurals in Ilocos Norte last August where they won the series opener but dropped the next two.

Galanza finished with 17 points, all on attacks.

“It’s all mental toughness and the strategies that we made,” said Valdez, whose own three-point binge late in the frame put the team at match point. She went on to bag the Finals MVP honors, her first in the PVL era, following a top-scoring 20-point effort she laced with three blocks.

The one-hour and 41-minute victory thus completed the crowd favorites’ eight-game sweep of the tournament, including a three-game romp in the group preliminaries, a lopsided win over PLDT in the quarterfinals and a two-game domination of sister team Choco Mucho in the semifinals.

They needed four sets and a lot of patience and breaks before squeezing out a 25-16, 23-25, 25-12, 32-30 victory over the plucky Angels in Game One of the finals at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay last Wednesday.

The title sweep also made up for the team’s failed bid to become the first winner of the league’s pro tournament. But they toughened up during the off-season, keeping the team intact while adding a player or two to further bolster their drive in the tournament that had to be compacted into a four-week tourney to give way for the national team’s preparation for next month’s Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, the core of which are mainstays of the league.

The championship was Creamline’s fourth in six straight finals appearances, including three in the league’s centerpiece event. 

But it wasn’t all offense for the Cool Smashers, who came through with two blocks off Nicole Tiamzon to preserve their commanding lead in the clutch with Domingo producing five blocks.

Creamline’s Tot Carlos earlier took the MVP title after a sustained power-packed performance in the compressed tournament where she normed 20.67 points before the finals.

“I’m grateful to my teammates and the team management for their support. I’m so happy to win the MVP honors,” said Carlos, who finished with 16 points.

Tiamzon led Petro Gazz with 14 points while Myla Pablo and MJ Phillips produced 13 hits apiece and Seth Rodriguez and Aiza Pontillas combined for 12 points for the Angels, whose top hitter and setter Grethcel Soltones played a virtual cameo role due to injury.

De Guzman, who orchestrated another superb Creamline offense all game, said: “It’s a luxury to have so many good hitters. And the rest also stepped up which made it a lot easier for us.”

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