The Creamline Cool Smashers fended off a scare from the also-ran Perlas Spikers and mounted a big five-set comeback win, 25-12, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-10, to clinch the top semifinals seed in the 2021 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference on Friday, August 6.
Fresh off another five-set grind against the second-seeded Choco Mucho Flying Titans, the Cool Smashers ended the elimination round with an 8-1 record, while the gutsy Spikers fell to the cellar with a 1-7 slate.
Superstar spiker Alyssa Valdez once again led the way with 24 points off 22 attacks, but it was newcomer Tots Carlos who stole the show with a triple-double of 20 markers, 21 excellent digs, and 12 excellent receptions.
Down a set and in danger of losing hold of the top spot, Creamline rallied en route to a fourth-set win and a quick 6-2 start in the deciding set.
Fatigue eventually caught up with the Spikers as they turned a three-point, 9-12 deficit into a heartbreaking loss after two crucial attack errors at the very end.
Cherry Nunag paced the tough defeat with 17 points off 13 attacks and 3 blocks, while Heather Guino-o backstopped the comeback attempt with 14 markers and 26 excellent digs.
Choco Mucho topples Petro Gazz
The volleyball marathon continued right off that thriller as Choco Mucho solidified its claim at second seed with a gritty 25-20, 23-25, 25-21, 25-23 win against fellow contender Petro Gazz Angels.
With the win, the Flying Titans formally set the conference semifinals matchups as they rose to a 7-1 record with one game left against the 6-2 Chery Tiggo Crossovers on Saturday, August 7.
If the Crossovers win, they will only switch places with Choco Mucho, but both teams are already locked into the No. 2 vs. No. 3 series regardless.
Petro Gazz, which finished with a 6-3 record, lost to Chery Tiggo earlier in the conference, and is therefore already set as Creamline’s fourth-seeded foe even if the Crossovers lose and end up with a similar 6-3 slate on Saturday.
Ponggay Gaston led the Flying Titans with crucial momentum-swinging plays that netted her Player of the Game honors with 14 points off 12 attacks and 2 blocks.
These came at the very end of the tiebreaking third set, where she turned a 22-20 lead to a 25-21 finish off three straight hits.
Although the Angels held on until the very end of the fourth set, they swooped down to their own doom with back-to-back errors that broke a 23-all tie and finished the game in Choco Mucho’s favor.
On the back of Gaston’s timely eruption, Maddie Madayag also topped off with 14 points, notably with a game-best 6 blocks, while Kat Tolentino and Regine Arocha rounded out the all-around scoring spree with 13 markers apiece.
Coincidentally, Petro Gazz matched Choco Mucho’s top scorers in that back-and-forth affair as Grethcel Soltones and Ria Meneses also recorded 14 points each in the tough loss.
PLDT sweeps Cignal
Finally, the PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters ended their conference run with an extreme turnaround as they cruised to their third straight sweep at the expense of sister team Cignal HD Spikers, 25-20, 25-14, 25-19.
This is the same PLDT team that lost its first six games and got eliminated from contention first in the ten-team field. On the other hand, Cignal dropped to the cellar alongside Perlas with a 1-7 record.
Isa Molde led yet another surprising rout with 16 points off 12 attacks, 3 blocks, and an ace to go with 22 excellent digs and 9 excellent receptions. Christine Soyud and Jorelle Singh backstopped her all-around line with 12 and 11 markers, respectively.
Meanwhile, no HD Spiker breached double digits in scoring as May Luna paced the loss with 7 points off the bench in just two sets of play.
Cignal will end its forgettable season on Saturday, August 7, with an elimination round-ending match against the also-ran Black Mamba Army Lady Troopers at 7 pm.
Perlas and the BaliPure Water Defenders will kick off the triple-header day at 1 pm, while Choco Mucho and Chery Tiggo will figure in basically a semis warmup game at 4 pm. – Rappler.com