Defending champion Creamline picked up its second win in the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference after edging out the retooled Petro Gazz in four sets, 24-26, 28-26, 25-22, 25-20, Tuesday (July 20) at the PCV Socio-Civic and Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
In a rematch of the 2019 Finals, the Cool Smashers bucked a sluggish start and leaned on the steady presence of Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado and new recruit Tots Carlos to ground the revenge-seeking Angels.
Valdez, a multi-time league MVP, delivered an all-around game of 16 points, 21 digs and 18 receptions for Creamline, which also drew strength from the playmaking brilliance of Morado, who fanned out 35 excellent sets.
Carlos, who came off the bench and relieved Jema Galanza in the third and fourth sets, finished with seven points. She served as the spark plug that held off the comeback attempt of Petro Gazz.
"Ako naman, laging (I'm always) ready. Like what the coaches and my teammates remind me, ready ako palagi (I'm always ready)," said Carlos, one of the recent additions to Creamline in the offseason.
Staring down a 4-11 deficit in the fourth set, Carlos, who nailed the set-clinching blows in the third frame, spearheaded Creamline's resurgence that flipped the seven-point gap into a two-point advanatage at 18-16.
Refusing to back down, Ces Molina, Mean Mendrez and Rem Palma kept Petro Gazz within striking distance, but Carlos unloaded a hit from the backrow to regain order at 22-19 before lifting the Cool Smashers at match point in the ensuing sequences.
Creamline hiked its record to 2-0, perching atop the standings alongside idle Chery Tiggo.
The Angels, on the other hand, dropped to 1-1.
Molina saw her game-high output of 18 points go to waste. Palma managed scoring 17 in the loss, while Ria Meneses ended up with 16 points that went for naught.
In the second game of the day, Black Mamba-Army relied on its veteran stalwarts to overcome a gutsy stand of the upstart BaliPure, 25-16, 25-27, 25-21, 26-24, for its breakthrough victory in the Open Conference.
The seasoned troika of Royse Tubino, Jovelyn Gonzaga and Ging Balse-Pabayo spelled the difference down the stretch as they displayed grit and composure to pull the Lady Troopers out of danger.
Trailing by three at 15-18 in the fourth set, Tubino and Gonzaga connived for a momentum-swinging run that locked the count at 22-all before Gen Casugod willed BaliPure back into it with a hit at set point, 24-23.
Gonzaga, though, refused to extend the match to a precarious fifth frame with a clutch attack that forged a deuce, setting up Balse-Pabayo's differential hits in the end game that won Black Mamba-Army the match.
Tubino led all scorers with 19 points, while Gonzaga delivered an all-around performance of 13 points, 16 digs and 12 excellent receptions. Pabayo, for her part, finished with nine points in a winning effort.
Black Mamba-Army bounced back from a loss to Petro Gazz two days ago, but head coach Kungfu Reyes is far from satisified with the way his wards performed.
“Luckily nanalo pero yung laro medyo malayo pa doon sa hinihingi namin na performance, so considering na nanalo kami nung first set tapos bigla kaming bumababa,” Reyes said.
(Translation: Luckily we won but our game is still quite far from what we expect to perform, considering that we won the first set then suddenly lost momentum from there," Reyes said.)
Grazielle Bombita put up 18 points for BaliPure, which surrendered a dismal amount of 32 errors in the match. Bern Flora saw his 15 points, 27 digs and 23 receptions go down the drain, while Casugod had 12 points in a season-opening loss.
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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