Creamline and Chery Tiggo try to sustain their big elims run but Petro Gazz and Cignal are coming into the semifinals with a great deal of hunger and pride as action in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference heats up at the Philsports Arena in Pasig today (Thursday).
And the round robin format makes the race to the finals all the more exciting and compelling with each team eager and ready to test each other’s strength and mettle again but on a different level and with so much at stake.
The Cool Smashers, who underscored their keenness on completing a record grand slam by topping the elims, tangle with the Angels at 2:30 p.m., seeking to build not just momentum but also the confidence needed in such kind of cutthroat competition.
But with a star-studded local cast and a prolific import in Yeliz Basa, the Open Conference and Invitational champions could be well on their way to matching their four-set victory over the Angels in the elims last Oct. 18.
Basa unloaded a 28-point game in that win with Alyssa Valdez and Jema Galanza providing solid backup of a combined 27-point output despite top hitter Tots Carlos playing on a limited stint while recovering from back issues.
But with this year’s back-to-back MVP back in top form, the Cool Smashers look so solid with the likes of top middles Ced Domingo and Pangs Pineda and ace playmaker Jia de Guzman also all primed up for the battle.
Petro Gazz reinforcement Lindsey Vander Weide actually matched Basa’s production in that evenly-fought match – with Creamline barely winning in attacks (56-55) and aces (6-3) and yielding 23 points off their miscues against the Angels’ 25.
The two teams also finished with six blocks apiece.
But the Angels had one thing going for them – they had not only beaten the Cool Smashers in a key match but they dethroned them in the finals of this conference in 2019 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Petro Gazz had kept the core of that champion team and beefed it up with the acquisition of MJ Phillips, Aiza Pontillas and libero Shiela Pineda at the start of the season, making them more than ready to take on the fancied Cool Smashers.
The 5:30 p.m. clash between the No. 2 Crossovers and the No. 4 HD Spikers also promises to be fierce and tight although the former, like the Cool Smashers, hold the psychological edge, having subdued the latter, also in four, in their elims face-off last Oct. 15.
While the Crossovers don’t rely too much on import Jelena Cvijovic, the league’s first pro champions’ local crew packs so much firepower with Mylene Paat continuing to get better and stronger each game and EJ Laure, Cza Carandang and Roselle Baliton, among others, ready to step up at any given time.
The HD Spikers, however, believe they are peaking just in time for the big battles, winning their last two games to advance in post-elims play of the season-ending conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
Import Tai Bierria is back in full harness while locals Ces Molina, Rachel Anne Daquis, Choy Troncoso, Roselyn Doria, Joy Dacoron, Angeli Araneta and setter Gel Cayuna are raring to get going and steer the team past not just the Crossovers, but also the Cool Smashers and the Angels.
Creamline and Chery Tiggo, meanwhile, switch rivals on Sunday with the Cool Smashers colliding with the HD Spikers at 2:30 p.m. and the Crossovers tangling with the Angels at 5:30 p.m. back at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Games are aired on One Sports, One Sports+, Cignal Play and Smart Gigaplay with hashtag #TheHeartofVolleyball.