Defending champion Creamline displayed grit and composure to outlast the upset-conscious Black Mamba-Army in a five-set thriller, 20-25, 25-15, 25-27, 25-19, 15-13, in the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference on Thursday (July 22) at the PCV Socio-Civic and Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Trailing for the majority of the match, the Cool Smashers dug deep and rallied from a huge deficit to avert the upset axe of the Lady Troopers and remain perched atop the league standings with a pristine 3-0 slate.
"We were so happy na nakahabol (that we caught up)...Iniisip namin (All we thought about) is to really just get one point. I think every point counts sa (in the) last remaining [sequences] noong (of) fifth set," Creamline captain Alyssa Valdez said.
The Cool Smashers, despite building momentum in the fourth set, fell apart early in the decider after Black Mamba-Army mounted a 9-3 cushion.
Michele Gumabao stopped the bleeding with a cross-court kill that incited a much-needed 4-0 spurt for Creamline to whittle away the deficit down to two, 7-9.
Ging Balse-Pabayo tried to restore order for the Lady Troopers, but Gumabao could not be denied as she connived with spark plug Tots Carlos to push the Cool Smashers to within a point, 9-10.
Both teams traded blows in the ensuing sequences as the game count swung back to a deadlock at 13-all.
Valdez then took matters into her own hands, hammering down the last two points en route to a spirited 20-point, 17-dig performance for Creamline.
Carlos unloaded a game-high 26 points off 24 attacks and two aces, while Risa Sato supplied 13 markers and Gumabao scored 12 for the Cool Smashers, who once again drew strength from the playmaking wares of Jia Morado, who fanned out 37 excellent sets.
Creamline did not just overcome huge deficits throughout the two-hour long match, but also had to shrug off an error-prone performance after surrendering a dismal 39 errors.
Black Mamba-Army, which was paced by Jovelyn Gonzaga's 18 points in the loss, dropped to a 1-2 record.
Another five-set classic went down in the second game of the day as Graze Bombita and the BaliPure Water Defenders scaled over the towering Santiago sisters to stun Chery Tiggo, 19-25, 25-19, 13-25, 27-25, 15-12.
Bombita came through in the clutch and nailed the differential hits in the fifth set to provide the Water Defenders their first taste of victory in the Open Conference.
Engaged in a 10-all deadlock in the decisive frame, Bombita delivered a momentum-swinging hit that sparked a crucial 3-0 run to create separation for BaliPure, 13-10.
Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat refused to back down as the siblings strung two quick conversions for the Crossovers, before Bombita restored order with another clutch attack and Jasmine Nabor ended the match after committing a costly setting error.
Bombita emerged as the leading scorer with 24 points built on 21 attacks, two blocks and an ace in a morale-boosting victory for BaliPure.
"Sabi nga ni Graze, nakaka-high morale 'yung panalo na 'to, especially Chery Tiggo natalo namin. One of the contenders talaga to going into the tournament. Sila 'yung isa sa teams na tinitingnan namin na mag-Finals, so beating them talagang nakaka-uplift ng spirit," said BaliPure head coach John Abella.
(Translation: "As Graze said, this win has brought high morale for us, especially since it came at the expense of Chery Tiggo. They are one of the contenders coming into the tournament. They are one of the teams that we envision to see in the Finals, so beating them truly uplifts our spirit.)
Bern Flora contributed a double-double line of 16 points and 17 receptions to BaliPure's cause, while Shirley Salamagos chimed in 10 markers and Alina Bicar churned out 24 excellent sets and 22 digs.
On the other hand, Chery Tiggo edged out the Water Defenders in every skills department in the match, but could not capitalize on their advantages in the endgame to fall to a 2-1 record.
Santiago saw her team-high 23 points go to waste, while Santiago-Manabat poured in 17 points in the stinging defeat.
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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