UNLESS Chery Tiggo produces a solid defensive game to at least slow down the dominant Creamline side, the Cool Smashers could well be on their way to another Premier Volleyball League championship appearance.
So does Creamline’s sister team Choco Mucho, which is out for redemption after squandering a 2-0 set lead and yielding to a resurgent Cignal in their side of the best-of-three semifinal series in the All-Filipino Conference Thursday.
The Cool Smashers and the HD Spikers go for the clinchers in Game Two of their respective playoffs at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig Saturday with the former aiming to move two wins away from replicating their title romp in 2019 via an amazing 20-game sweep of the Open Conference.
Game time is 6 p.m.
Veteran skipper Alyssa Valdez served as the catalyst in a back-and-forth second set duel in Game One, scoring three straight points and the Cool Smashers went on to pound out a 25-18, 27-25, 25-22 victory, their 12th straight counting the 11 matches they swept in the eliminations of the season-ending conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
“The fight’s not over, we still need another win to enter the finals,” Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses said.
The defending champions used the one-day break to assess their lapses from the series’ opener where they committed 21 unforced errors against the Crossovers’ 16.
But they compensated for their struggles by dominating the skills duels, 51-40 (spikes), 8-4 (blocks) and 2-0 (aces). The troika of Valdez, Tots Carlos and Jema Galanza combined for 44 points.
The team’s middles Pangs Panaga and Risa Sato also contributed six points apiece to help anchor their straight-set victory.
Eya Laure did score 18 points but no other Crossover posted double-digit outputs with the seasoned Mylene Paat ending up with just nine hits in a match she was expected to dominate.
Cza Carandang actually held her ground in the middle and scored nine points but Shaya Adorador and Pauline Gaston made just four and three points, respectively, and EJ Laure ended up with just a point in a limited stint.
The 4 p.m. match between Cignal and Choco Mucho also promises to be another thrilling face-off with the HD Spikers bristling with confidence after completing an incredible comeback from 0-2 set down to shock the fancied Flying Titans, 18-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-19, 15-10, in their side of the series.
“I’m so proud of the players, their effort was massive, they wanted a pretty result” Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos said. “But we can’t be complacent.”
Team captain Ces Molina played her role to the hilt, spearheading the team’s big fightback to finish with 23 points, while Vanie Gandler continued to shine as she came away with 17 points while Jovelyn Gonzaga also flourished with 16 points.
Riri Menenes shrugged off a listless start and stepped up in the last three sets as she contributed nine points but it was Gel Cayuna who took the spotlight as the top playmaker outperformed counterpart Deanna Wong, producing 29 excellent sets against the latter’s 25.
Cayuna also showcased her scoring prowess, firing nine points, highlighted by four aces.
But expect the Flying Titans to bounce back strong and cash in on their slight edge in firepower with Sisi Rondina eager to get going after seeing her 19-point blast go down the drain.
Four other Flying Titans churned out double-digit scores but Kat Tolentino (16), Isa Molde (11), and Maddie Madayag and Cherry Nunag, who scored 10 points apiece, put in the bulk of their outputs in the first three sets and the team failed to match the HD Spikers’ rebound in the last three sets.
Games in the tournament, backed by Bola.TV, Beyond Active Wear, ASICS and Mikasa, can be streamed live on PVL.ph and Pilipinas Live and telecast on OneSports and OneSportsPlus.