Games Tuesday (Philsports Arena)
2:30 p.m. – Cignal vs Petro Gazz
5:30 p.m. – Creamline vs Chery Tiggo
On the doorstep of a first Premier Volleyball League finals appearance, Cignal expects to get better and stronger as the HD Spikers try to barge into the championship round against the resurgent Petro Gazz Angels at the close of the Reinforced Conference semifinals back at the Philsports Arena in Pasig today (Tuesday).
The HD Spikers, who came into the semis at No. 4. moved on the threshold of a breakthrough final stint after beating the top two teams after the elims, sweeping the second ranked Chery Tiggo Crossovers last Thursday and thwarting the No. 1 Creamline Cool Smashers in four last Sunday.
But they still need to hurdle the Angels in their 2:30 p.m. encounter to formalize their impending championship jaunt and avoid going through the complications of a tiebreaker in case of a three-way tie at 2-1.
Creamline, meanwhile, tries to recover lost ground as it tangles with ousted Chery Tiggo at 5:30 p.m.
A victory by Cignal and Creamline will seal a title clash between the HD Spikers and the Cool Smashers but a Petro Gazz win coupled with a Creamline victory will create a three-way tie at 2-1.
But with 6 points on its victories over Chery Tiggo and Creamline, Cignal has the inside track at the first finals seat with Creamline and Petro Gazz toting 3 points apiece. A three or four-set win by the Angels and a victory by the Cool Smashers, also in three or four sets, will tie them at 6 points.
But if Cignal drags Petro Gazz into a five-set duel and lost, the HD Spikers will still net 1 point and will automatically advance against the Cool Smashers, who, however, still need to dispose the Crossovers in at least four sets.
“The whole team, from coaches to players, is so proud because, I think, it’s our first time to win over Creamline in the semifinals,” said Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos in Filipino after steering his wards to a gripping 23-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-18 victory over the grand slam-seeking Cool Smashers before a huge Sunday crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“So it’s a big opportunity for us to be even better in our next game,” he added.
But the HD Spikers, led by import Tai Bierria, who is peaking at the right time, and locals Ces Molina, Riri Meneses, Rachel Anne Daquis, Roselyn Doria and playmaker Gel Cayuna, must dish out their best against the Angels, who whipped the hapless Crossovers in three, also last Sunday, to stay in the finals hunt in the season-ending conference of the league organized by Sports Vision
“We just focused on the task at hand and I think, it’s the game that we really needed to win,” said Petro Gazz mentor Rald Ricafort after the Angels dominated the Crossovers to fashion out the win worth three points.
“They just played while enjoying the game, so the task and their individual roles became clearer,” added Ricafort, who will be pinning his hopes again on their hard-hitting reinforcement Lindsey Vander Weide and local aces Myla Pablo, Aiza Pontillas, MJ Phillips, Remy Palma, Jonah Sabete, Nicole Tiamzon and setter Djanel Cheng.
Cignal, with Bierria, Molina and Meneses combing for 43 points, blew a two-set lead but recovered in time to frustrate Petro Gazz, which drew 29 points from Vander Weide and 17 hits from Pablo, in five in their elims face-off last Nov. 10.
The HD Spikers, who marked their PVL debut with a 10th place finish in the Open Conference in the league’s first pro season in bubble setup in Ilocos Norte last year, have won their last four matches, giving them all the confidence and momentum against the Angels.
But the way the 2019 champions dispatched the Crossovers, the HD Spikers, who placed third in this year’s Open Conference and Invitational, will need all the motivation to score a repeat over the Angels and clinch the hotly-disputed first finals slot.
Games are aired on One Sports, One Sports+, Cignal Play and Smart Gigaplay with hashtag #TheHeartofVolleyball.