Creamline moved on the cusp of another shot at the Premier Volleyball League championship, showcasing its skill and determination to repeat over Chery Tiggo, 25-18, 27-25, 25-22, in Game One of their All-Filipino Conference semifinal series at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City on Thursday night.
The Cool Smashers also displayed their mental strength firmed up by six league championships with the seasoned Alyssa Valdez leading their charge in rising to the challenge in critical moments, particularly in the second set where momentum swung back and forth.
“We all know Chery will give us a good fight and we really have to work hard for every point, that’s our mindset,” said Valdez, who finished with 12 points. “We’re grateful to win the second set, which was very crucial.”
Just when the Crossovers looked poised to level the set after a dominant Creamline romp in the opener, the Cool Smashers demonstrated unwavering stance and thwarted each Chery Tiggo attempt.
Creamline blew a 22-19 lead but battled back from two set points as Valdez, in a moment indicative of Creamline’s tenacity, came through with three straight hits to lift the defending champions to the thrilling one-hour, 36-minute victory for the head-start in their best-of-three series.
Eya Laure’s back-to-back hits capped a big Chery Tiggo 5-0 counterattack to move to set point, 24-22. But Risa Sato and Tots Carlos foiled Laure’s assault and Michele Gumabao came off the bench to likewise neutralize Mylene Paat’s attack to extend the set.
Valdez then took over, defying three blockers to break the tie. And after Laure leveled it with a push, the multi-titled hitter struck with another off-the-block hit then came through with an ace, a precision shot that barely cleared the net, found an open spot just steps away from Chery Tiggo’s libero Jen Nierva.
The Crossovers tried to stall the Cool Smashers by wresting control at 15-12 in the third frame but the latter countered with three straight hits, paving the way for another down-to-the-wire finish.
And another Creamline victory.
A Laure backrow attack put the Crossovers back in the hunt, 19-20, but Galanza scored on a drop ball off a combination play that baffled Chery Tiggo’s net defenders and the former Adamson standout blocked EJ Laure in the ensuing play to give the Cool Smashers a three-point cushion.
Creamline held sway as Galanza and Pangs Panaga negated Shaya Adorador’s consecutive hits and clinched the set and the match after a Galanza backrow mishit as Mylene Paat scrambled and hobbled on a shaky second pass.
“The series is not over yet, we still need another win to enter the finals,” said Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses after his wards stretched their win run to 12 following a sweep of the elims. “Back to training tomorrow (today) and we’ll check on our lapses to improve more our game.”
Galanza came away with 17 points, nine excellent receptions and seven digs to emerge the game’s best player, while Carlos added 15 points and 12 excellent digts and Sato and Panaga each scored six points.
Eya Laure scored a game-high 18-point output but Chery Tiggo coach Kungfu Reyes failed to draw solid support from the team’s other designated hitters.
Paat and Cza Carandang finished with nine points apiece while Adorador and Pauline Gaston combined for just seven markers. EJ Laure only had one point in a two-set stint while Ces Robles and setter Jasmine Nabor wound up scoreless.