Creamline escapes gutsy Army rally in season’s first 5-set classic

The Creamline Cool Smashers were pushed to the absolute limit in the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference after a five-set squeaker, 20-25, 25-15, 25-27, 25-19, 15-13, over the spirited Black Mamba Army Lady Troopers on Thursday, July 22.

Creamline, the reigning Open Conference champion, barely survived for its third straight win for the new season – and 23rd straight since 2019 –  while the gutsy Army vets fell to a 1-2 slate.

Tots Carlos, drawing her first start of the season in place of Jema Galanza, fired up with 26 points off 24 attacks and 2 blocks to win Player of the Game honors.

Alyssa Valdez chipped in 20 points and 17 excellent digs while Kyla Atienza recorded 23 excellent digs and 17 excellent receptions in the grueling win.

The Lady Troopers looked well on their way to be the first team to beat Creamline since July 14, 2019, after they rallied ahead with a 9-1 run for the 9-3 lead in the deciding fifth set.

However, the defending champions dug deep, and stormed ahead, 13-12, off a 9-4 response capped by a Carlos soft tip.

Although the Cool Smashers had a momentary scare after Jeanette Panaga suffered an apparent right leg injury after landing on Valdez’s foot, the champions finished strong off two quick Valdez points for the heart-stopping finish.

Assistant coach Sherwin Meneses, still leading the team in place of the quarantined Tai Bundit, gave deserved props to both sides after an instant classic that went down to the wire.

Siyempre lahat naman yan nag-prepare. Buti na lang yung konting adjustment namin nagbunga naman, so nakuha namin ‘yung panalo,” he said. “Alam mo ang Army, hindi bibitaw yan. Siyempre experienced na ‘yan.”

(Of course, everyone prepared well. Good thing our small adjustments worked so we got the win. We all know the Army won’t go down easily. All of them are experienced by now.)

“Bionic Ilongga” Jovelyn Gonzaga led the Army in the crushing loss with 18 points off 17 attacks while Royse Tubino added 14 markers. Ging Balse-Pabayo also shored up the late game with 8 points off  5 attacks and 3 blocks.

Creamline will get two days off before they kick off the first triple-header of the season on Sunday, July 25, 1 pm, against the winless PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters.

Meanwhile, the Army are tentatively slated for a Monday, July 26, 6 pm match against the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors, but next week’s schedule may still change to make way for the returning Perlas Spikers. –