Chery Tiggo continued to dismantle powerhouses in the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference after picking apart Petro Gazz in straight sets, 25-18, 25-20, 25-22, on Sunday (August 1) at the PCV Socio-Civic and Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Riding the crest of a momentous triumph over defending champion Creamline, the Crossovers leaned on Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat to reclaim the solo third seed with an improved 5-2 record behind the league-leading Choco Mucho (5-0) and the second-seeded Cool Smashers (5-1).
Santiago, the Ageo Medics import, replicated her production from the previous game with another 20-point output, punishing the opposition with 16 attacks, three kills blocks and an ace.
Santiago-Manabat, for her part, shouldered some of the offensive load with 12 points, all but two coming from attacks.
The Crossovers braced for the vaunted net defense of the Angels, as a concentrated effort in blocking negated the defensive schemes of Ria Meneses and Petro Gazz while the punch-packing hits of the Santiago sisters burst open the floodgates.
Still, despite a methodical sweep, Chery Tiggo head coach Aaron Velez insists that his wards need to integrate more into his system to tap into their maximum potential.
“There’s still more games and more opportunity, we just have to master and be more consistent on the system,” Velez said.
Petro Gazz, on the other hand, saw its three-game win streak come to a screeching halt to drop to a 4-2 record.
Meneses, who was coming off a 10-block performance, spearheaded the Angels with 11 points in the loss, while prolific scorers Ces Molina and Myla Pablo had a quiet outing with nine points apiece.
Sta. Lucia also pulled off a sweep of its own after belting the BaliPure Purest Water Defenders with a straight-set 25-15, 25-12, 25-14 beatdown to stay in the hunt for a Final Four berth.
Jonah Sabete took charge with a game-high 15 points, to go along with seven excellent receptions, as the Lady Realtors stretched their winning streak to three and rose to solo fifth place with a 4-3 card behind Petro Gazz.
“Ngayon nandoon kami sa punto na 'yung last two remaining games ay kailangan makuha at makuha yun. Kaya dapat trabaho nang trabaho,” said Sta. Lucia head coach Eddieson Orcullo.
(Translation: We're at a point where the last two remaining games are must wins. That is why we should never stop working hard.)
Dell Palomata anchored above the net as she tallied half of her team's 10 blocks to finish with 11 points while MJ Phillips supplemented 10 markers for the Lady Realtors, who relied on the 20-set production of Djanel Cheng.
With three double-digit scorers in a match that lasted for only 72 minutes, Sta. Lucia's offense made an impact on the sweep, but a scan on the scoring performance of BaliPure would reveal how effective their defense was.
The Purest Water Defenders, who dropped to a 2-4 record, were led Bern Flora and Gen Casugod who only managed to score five points apiece.
No other player from their side scored more than the two, as Graze Bombita was limited to just four in the contest.
Leading the floor coverage for Sta. Lucia were Jovie Prado and Bang Pineda. The former collected 14 digs and six receptions while Pineda chimed in 15 digs.
Meanwhile, the PLDT Power Hitters finally cracked the winning code after defeating the Perlas Spikers in straight sets, 25-22, 25-20, 25-21, to cap off a triple-header that featured three consecutive sweeps.
Isa Molde delivered the goods with a game-high 14 points built on 12 attacks, two aces and a block as the Power Hitters quenched a long drought that ran for six matches.
Molde, refusing to walk out of the night without a victorious moment, nailed the differential blows late in the decisive third set, where she put PLDT at match point before pummeling the clincher.
"Nagpapasalamat talaga ako [sa panalo], para maibalik din 'yung confidence ng mga bata. Nakakuha na kami, lalaban pa kami may dalawang laro pa kami," PLDT head coach Roger Gorayeb said.
(Translation: I'm really thankful for the win, in order to regain the confidence of my players. We finally won one and we're still going to fight for more with two games left.)
Jorelle Singh and Chin Basas proved instrumental in the victory as well, supporting Molde on offense with 11 points apiece.
For her part, decorated setter Rhea Dimaculangan churned out the scoring machine of the Power Hitters with 24 excellent sets laced with five points.
Dimaculangan's playmaking brilliance gave PLDT a decisive edge when it comes to attacks, 46-35.
The Perlas Spikers, who slid to a 1-4 record, relied on the scoring exploits of Cherry Nunag in the loss. She was the lone double-digit scorer on their side with 14 points.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.