Ilocos Norte – It took Creamline some time before sizing up a winless PLDT Home Fibr side. But when it did, there was no stopping the unbeaten Cool Smashers.
The defending champions broke away from a 13-all count in the opening frame, striking heavily on power shots set up by superb reception and floor coverage, leading to a decisive 12-3 closing run that set the tone for their 25-16, 25-12, 25-13 romp over the PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra here yesterday.
The Cool Smashers sustained that scorching first-set windup, racing to a 15-5 and 11-4 bulges in the next two which they turned into a virtual workout as the Power Hitters, impressive in the early going of the match kicking off the second week of the country’s first-ever pro volley league, struggled with their offense and scrambled trying to keep the ball in play in the face of Creamline's fiery assaults.
The victory was the front-running Creamline’s fourth straight but it proved the simplest after going through extra sets against Sta. Lucia (25-18, 25-21, 25-27, 25-18) and Petro Gazz (24-26, 28-26, 25-22, 25-20) and surviving Black Mamba Army (20-25, 25-15, 25-27, 25-19, 15-13).
Meanwhile, action resumes today (Monday) with Perlas playing its second straight match, taking on Chery Tiggo at 3 p.m. while Sta. Lucia and Army clash in a duel of struggling teams at 6 p.m.
Games are telecast live on One Sports (Free to Air), and One Sports+ (Pay TV) with both channels available for linear streaming on Cignal Play and on gigafest.smart with replays on www.pvl.ph.
While Creamline kept its hot streak going to further bolster its semifinal drive, PLDT continued its free fall, reeling to its fourth straight loss in the 10-team field chasing the top four berths in the single round elims.
Pangs Panaga, a vital cog in Creamline’s previous victories, didn’t suit up due to injury with coach Sherwin Meneses giving his star-studded bench some court time, including former FEU standout Celine Domingo.
“I just hope the bench will continue to contribute,” said Meneses, pointing to Domingo’s fine showing in the absence of Panaga. “We really want to give the rest the breaks they need. Good thing, they delivered.”
Playmaker Jia Morado emerged the game’s best player with 19 excellent sets on top of three hits while Alyssa Valdez top-scored with 16 hits, all on attacks, with the latter hardly expressing her surprise over Domingo’s performance.
“Even in practice, Celine plays aggressive, energy-wise. Her eagerness is so inspiring, so when she took over for Pangs (Panaga), we’re really happy for her because we knew she would deliver,” said Valdez.
And deliver she did as Domingo finished with six hits next to Michele Gumabao’s nine points and Jema Galanza’s eight markers.
“I'm always ready and my mindset is to do my role and everything will follow,” said Domingo.
Isa Molde pumped in seven hits but that was the best PLDT could muster as Shola Alvarez settled for five points in a two-set stint while seven others chipped in one, two and three points in another losing bid.
With Valdez and Galanza on the firing end, the Cool Smashers finished with 43 attack points, 18 more than the Power Hitters, had six more blocks than their rivals, 7-1, and ended up with four aces.