Cool Smashers stave off Angels in straight sets in semifinal duel

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CREAMLINE prevailed in a duel of spurts in the first set, caught fire in the second and survived Petro Gazz’s uprising in the third frame to score a 25-21, 25-20, 25-23 victory at the start of the semifinal round of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference at the PhilSports Arena on Thursday.

The Cool Smashers underscored their superb all-round game anchored on their explosive hitting as they buried the Angels with 53 attack points with import Yeliz Basa and Jema Galanza combining for 28 before winding up with 17 and 14 points, respectively.

Creamline were also solid in their receives all game and didn’t yield a single ace while scoring six of their own.

And although the Angels lived up to their billing as the league’s top blocking team, 9-5, and barely edged the Cool Smashers in overall reception, 35-33, the grand slam-seeking crowd favorites dominated the other departments.

They finished with 47 excellent digs against their rivals’ 43 and Jia de Guzman put up another sterling 19-excellent set performance, seven more than her counterpart Djanel Cheng.

“It doesn’t matter how many sets, it’s the win that’s important,” said Creamline Coach Sherwin Meneses, whose wards stared at defeat in the third set after trailing 14-18 on a Lindsey Vander Weide’s off-the-block hit.

But the Angels surprisingly settled for drop shots, enabling the Cool Smashers to counter with Tots Carlos and Galanza scoring on back-to-back hits with another pair of Basa and Galanza blasts capping a 4-0 run that forced a tie.

Still, Petro Gazz refused to crack and fought back to surge ahead again at 23-22 on a Vander Weide power tip. But a costly MJ Phillips net miscue stymied their charge while virtually helping set the stage for the Cool Smashers’ decisive closing 3-0 run.

And Ced Domingo stepped up again the way she did in their past matches, scoring on a quick hit off a broken play then completing another brilliant de Guzman feed that bounced off Shiela Pineda’s arms and which Vander Weide had failed to save.

“Everyone really went back to the basics when we were trailing. The team stayed composed,” de Guzman said. “Until they score 25, we knew we can still chase them.”

The Cool Smashers take on the Cignal HD Spikers on Sunday before facing the Chery Tiggo Crossovers on Tuesday.

Vander Weide finished with 16 points while Phillips and Aiza Pontillas added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Angels, who beat the Cool Smashers in the finals of this conference last 2019 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.

But Coach Rald Ricafort only drew three points each from Myla Pablo and Remy Palma as the Angels finished with just 37 attack points.

The Angels started out strong and seized a 10-7 lead but the Cool Smashers struck back to grab the lead at 16-15 before racking up five straight points to pull away by six. Petro Gazz, however, countered with its own five-point binge to threaten within one but Creamline held sway behind Alyssa Valdez’s power hits to pound out the four-point win in the first set.

The Cool Smashers kept their momentum and controlled the second early, 7-1, and fended off the Angels’ series of rallies while bucking their wobbly stints from the service line to go two sets up.

Petro Gazz then battled Creamline in a back-and-forth duel in the third before wresting a 17-13 led on a power tip by Vander Weide and aided by a Domingo attack error. But after Carlos and Vander Weide traded hits, the Angels failed to launch their attacks and settled for drop shots which the Cool Smashers turned into points before the latter got the better of the former in the clutch.

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