Defending champion Creamline orchestrated a straight-set drubbing of PLDT, 25-16, 25-12, 25-13, to remain unscathed in the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference at the PCV Socio-Civic and Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte on Sunday (July 25).
Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado showed the way as the Cool Smashers stretched their unbeaten record to 4-0 while sending PLDT spiraling down the standings with a 0-4 slate.
Valdez shouldered the bulk of scoring with a game-high 16 points, while Morado generated the offense to the tune of 19 excellent sets as she activated all but one Creamline attackers.
Michele Gumabao and Jema Galanaza were also instrumental to compliment Valdez and Morado. Gumabao anchored at the net with four of the team's seven blocks for a nine-point outing, while Galanza scattered eight points, nine receptions and 13 digs.
The stabilizing presence of the starters allowed the rest of the Cool Smashers to get into a groove in the rout of PLDT, much to the delight of assistant coach Sherwin Meneses.
"'Yung second stringers kailangan din talagang i-break. So, maganda naman pinakita ng second stringers talaga," Meneses said.
(Translation: "There's a need to give the second stringers playing time, and they provided a good showing with the break they were given.")
Though this match marked her first start in the conference, Celine Domingo, who spent much of her time on the bench in previous games, was one of the Cool Smashers who showed out. She ably stepped up in lieu of Jeanette Panaga, who was sidelined due to a right ankle sprain, and supplied six points.
Creamline dominated PLDT on all fronts after establishing a 43-25 attack differential, a 7-1 block disparity and a 4-0 service ace gap.
No Power Hitter graced double-digit in scoring with Isa Molde leading the losing side with seven points.
Trailing close behind its sister team Creamline, Choco Mucho preserved its pristine slate after giving the Perlas Spikers a rude welcome in the Open Conference, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20.
The Flying Titans relied on the menacing net defense of Kat Tolentino and Maddie Madayag to soar to a 3-0 card and firm up their hold of the second seed behind the league-leading defending champion.
Tolentino paced the winning side with nine points anchored on five attacks and four blocks, while Madayag supplemented three denials for eight points.
The towering duo accounted for seven of Choco Mucho's 11 blocks as net defense helped the Flying Titans gain the upper hand in the match, where the Perlas Spikers, who only managed three blocks, edged out the Flying Titans in attacks (39-32 differential) and service aces (3-1 disparity).
For her part, Ponggay Gaston shouldered the spiking load with eight points, all coming from attacks. She also made her presence felt on defense with 22 digs and five receptions.
Still, despite securing a straight-set decision, Choco Mucho head coach believes that his team still needs plenty to work on, vitality in particular.
"Kailangan pa ng energy. Alam mo naman laro isang araw, laro ulit [sa sumunod], so we really need that much energy every day and every game. Kailangan pa natin mag-improve sa maraming bagay pa," Almadro said.
(Translation: "We need more energy. As you know, games are held almost everyday, so we really need that much energy every day and every game. We still need to improve on a lot of things.)
Perlas, which coughed up a dismal 31 errors, started its campaign on a sour note, but it was a welcome development after its scheduled marches in the opening week were shelved when a team member tested positive for COVID-19.
Chery Nunag emerged as the game's leading scorer with 11 in the loss, while Heather Guino-o and Sue Roces managed eight points apiece.
Coming off an upset victory over Chery Tiggo, Graze Bombita and BaliPure sustained their winning form after outlasting Cignal, 21-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-22, in the night cap of a triple-header.
Bombita poured out 19 points built on 17 kills as the Purest Water Defenders recovered from an opening set loss and dispatched the HD Spikers to improve to a 2-1 slate, creating a three-way logjam at third place alongside Chery Tiggo and Petro Gazz.
Bern Flora also delivered the goods with an all-around line of 14 points, 17 receptions and 21 digs, while Gyra Barroga and Gen Casugod provided the added scoring punch with 12 points apiece off five aces and five blocks, respectively.
Alina Bicar ably distributed the wealth with 23 excellent sets, to go along with 18 digs and four points, for the Purest Water Defenders, who outgunned Cignal, 50-44 in attacks.
BaliPure head coach Rommel Abella appreciates the hard work his wards have been putting in the past couple of games, but he could not help but rue their tendency of having a lethargic start in each of their game.
"Actually hindi ako satisfied sa nilaro namin kasi ang baba nung intensity nung start ng laro namin. Gusto ko nga sana sabi ko sa kanila maging baseline namin yung nilaro namin last game dun kami magsimula kaya lang mababa yung simula pero good thing naka-recover and siyempre in a way happy pa rin kasi yun nga two-game winning streak kami," Abella said.
(Translation: Actually I'm not satisfied with the way we played because of our low intensity at the start. I wanted my players to use our recent win as a baseline, yet it was still a slow start. But the good thing is we recovered and, of course, I'm happy in a way since we're in a two-game winning streak.)
Cignal, now 1-3, dropped to seventh place in the ten-team field.
Janine Marciano topped the HD Spikers with 19 points and 10 digs that went for naught, while May Luna had nine points in the loss.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.