The Creamline Cool Smashers avoided a major shock by coming from a five-set deficit to defeat Black Mamba-Army on Thursday afternoon at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Alyssa Valdez overcame her early problems and came through in the clutch, scoring the final two points in Creamline’s 20-25, 25-15, 25-27, 25-19, 15-13 victory.
“We were so happy na nakahabol. Iniisip namin is to really just get one point. At saka lagi sinasabi sa amin ni coach na we have to play our game. Yun ang nakakalimutan namin,” said Valdez, who scored 20 points and 17 digs in the triumph.
Tots Carlos scored 26 points on 24 kills and two blocks in her maiden start for Creamline, while Risa Sato had 13 points and Michele Gumabao had 12. Jia Morado finished with three points and 37 excellent sets.
The victory gives the Cool Smashers a 3-0 record in the Open Conference of the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL). Since the 2019 edition of the tournament, they have won 23 consecutive matches.
However, it appeared as if the Lady Troopers were about to snap their winning streak when they seized a 2-1 lead, capitalizing on the Cool Smashers’ errors while exhibiting excellent floor defense.
Creamline had a total of 16 unforced errors in the third set, negating their 20 kills. The Lady Troopers converted a weak pass by Valdez into a point for a 26-25 lead, and Gumabao threw her attack wide in the next rally, handing Army the victory.
In Set 4, the defending champions cleaned up their act, making only four errors while racking up 14 kills. Carlos, who was instrumental in their triumph over PetroGazz last Tuesday, came up huge again, scoring three straight points to turn a slender 18-16 lead into a comfortable 21-16 edge. Army was kept alive for a brief moment by Royse Tubino, but a hit down the line by Valdez sent the match to a decisive fifth set.
As they raced to a 9-3 lead in Set 5, the Lady Troopers appeared to be on their way to snatching the victory, with Creamline once again shooting itself in the foot with errors. Unfortunately for Army, they too was plagued by errors, with Jane Bautista being called for a series of errors that allowed Creamline to narrow the score to two points, 9-7.
Army led 12-9 after a block by Ging Balse-Pabayo on Jema Galanza and another Galanza miscue, but Creamline tied the score at 12 with clutch plays from Carlos, Jeanette Panaga, and Valdez.
Creamline took a 13-12 lead on an offspeed hit by Carlos, but Balse tied the game for the last time, 13-13. Creamline lost Panaga to an apparent ankle injury on the same play, as replays revealed she trod on Valdez’s foot when landing. Panaga, who had nine points in the game, had to be taken to the bench.
Valdez then finished off the game with a crosscourt kill and a joust win in the next rally, giving Creamline the victory after two hours and ten minutes.
With 18 points, Jovelyn Gonzaga led Black Mamba-Army, while Tubino added 14. Balse-Pabayo came off the bench to score eight points.
Creamline gave up 39 free points due to their unforced errors, but more than made up for it with 72 kills against the Lady Troopers’ 48.