The Creamline Cool Smashers set their three-peat bid in motion on Saturday (17 July) with a 25-18, 25-21, 25-27, 25-18 victory over Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors in the opening day of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference.
Behind the all-around effort of Michele Gumabao, the offensive firepower of Alyssa Valdez and the playmaking brilliance of Jia Morado, the Cool Smashers showed no signs of rust when volleyball returned to action at the Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, as they asserted dominance over the Lady Realtors.
Gumabao fired from all cylinders to finish with 24 points built on 21 attacks, two aces and a block, while Valdez poured in 20 markers on 17 kills and three rejections. Gumabao also had 15 digs to her name for a productive double-double line.
While Gumabao and Valdez served as the pointed edge of Creamline's spear, it was Morado that struck Sta. Lucia down with her surgical decision-making en route to 25 excellent sets in the match.
"Our team prepared well in this game. Sta. Lucia fought hard and utilized their length, so it was a collective effort on our end with Jia distributing the ball well which led us to victory," Creamline assistant coach Sherwin Meneses, who stepped up in lieu of Tai Bundit, said in Filipino.
Jema Galanza, the reigning conference MVP, supplemented 13 points and 17 excellent receptions, while Middle blocker Jeanette Panaga accounted for five of Creamline's 11 blocks to end up with 10 markers.
Sta. Lucia, which tried to mount a comeback in the third set but lost steam in the fourth, rode on the scoring exploits of MJ Philips and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas as Mika Reyes was limited to just three points in the loss.
Philips put up 20 points and 13 digs, while Pontillas scored 11 that went for naught.
In the league opener, Dindin Santiago-Manabat and Jaja Santiago sent a resounding statement when Chery Tiggo 7 Pro Crossovers jumpstarted its campaign with a dominant 25-20, 25-17, 25-6 showing at the expense of PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters.
The Santiago sisters served as the well-oiled engine for the Crossovers, who raced out of the gates with a 23-5 run in the decisive third set to make swift work of PLDT.
Manabat showed the way with 12 points off of 10 attacks, a block and an ace, while Santiago hammered down 11 markers built on seven kills and four aces in the match that lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes.
“Definitely, they were able to lead our team in terms of being a leader inside the court and of course, they’re doing their volleyball skills to perform as well. I think it’s a big thing to anchor our team,” Chery Tiggo head coach Aaron Velez said.
Middle blocker Joy Dacoron, who put up the finishing touches in the final frame, made most of her presence felt in the first and second sets as she finished the game with 13 points. Her biggest contribution came on the defensive end as she collected six of her team's nine kill blocks.
Also instrumental to Chery Tiggo's rousing PVL debut was Arriane Layug who chimed in nine points, while Jasmine Nabor distributed the wealth with 16 excellent sets to go along with seven digs and four markers.
The Roger Gorayeb-mentored Power Hitters, on the other hand, struggled on the offensive end with no double-digit scorer in the loss.
Isa Molde topped PLDT with eight points, while Eli Soyud managed seven.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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