Crossovers oust Troopers, book Final 4 playoff berth


ILOCOS NORTE – Chery Tiggo ran Black Mamba Army to the ground with a little bit of everything, essaying a 25-16, 25-16, 25-21 victory to guarantee itself of at least a playoff for one of the semifinal seats in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference on Wednesday at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra.

Dindin Manabat and sister Jaja Santiago again stood at the forefront of the Crossovers’ attacks that proved too strong and too much for the Lady Troopers to overcome, enabling the former to cruise to the one-hour, seven-minute victory, their third straight since dealing the Creamline Cool Smashers their first defeat last Sunday.

With a 6-2 slate, Chery Tiggo moved to solo third with frontrunners Choco Mucho (6-0) and Creamline (6-1) disputing the solo lead at press time and Petro Gazz (5-2) and Sta. Lucia (5-3) slugging it out in a key duel tonight (Thursday) heading to the final stretch of the single round elimination among the 10 teams.

“I’m happy more than thankful to the players (for performing),” said Chery Tiggo coach Aaron Velez. “We just have to continue scouting the other teams. We also have to invest in our physical conditioning and mental preparation.”

Meanwhile, the league tinkered with its elimination schedule on Wednesday, compressing the last nine matches to three days with triple-bills starting today, pitting PLDT vs BaliPure at 1 p.m., Army vs Perlas at 4 p.m., and Petro Gazz vs Sta. Lucia at 7 a.m.

“The mere fact that we can still play, we just have to make use of it and be thankful the PVL is still here,” added Velez, referring to the strict quarantine measures to be implemented in the NCR Plus starting Friday due to the spike of Delta variant.

Manabat exploded for another 18-hit performance, including 16 attacks, while Santiago came away with 12 kills for a 15-point output for the Crossovers, who dominated their spiking duel, 46-31 while pouncing on their rivals’ sloppy service reception to fire eight aces.

Shaya Adorador came up with seven points, Mylene Paat delivered six hits and Maika Ortiz, Jasmine Nabor, Joy Doromal and Elaine Kasilang combined for 10 points for the Crossovers, who also drew 32 excellent sets from Nabor and a combined 27-excellent digs from Adorador and Beatriz Duremdes.

Jovy Gonzaga scored 11 points while Royse Tubino added eight markers for the Troopers, who had looked forward to sweeping their last three games and hoped for either Petro Gazz or Sta. Lucia won’t go over five wins to force a playoff for the last Final Four slot.

But with a 2-5 slate, Army joined BaliPure, Perlas, Cignal and PLDT in the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Creamline schooled a young Choco Mucho side key lessons on poise and all as the Cool Smashers hammered out a semis-clinching come-from-behind 18-25, 25-9, 21-25, 25-18, 15-6 victory to clinch the first Final Four berth.

In a fifth set that featured stinging hits and superb blocking, the defending champions came out the clear winner as Alyssa Valdez, Tots Carlos, Michele Gumabao and Risa Sato provided the firepower while anchoring their net defense on Jeanette Panaga.

Throughout their surge in the last two sets, particularly in the decider, ace playmaker Jia Morado fed off the sets both on the outside and opposite side that forever baffled the Flying Titans with Carlos scoring almost at will that made it 8-3 on their way to notching their seventh victory against a loss.

The loss stalled Choco Mucho at 6-1, needing to win one of its last two games to join its sister team in postseason play at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra here yesterday.

Creamline’s victory likewise marked the return of Thai coach Tai Bundit, who took over from Sherwin Meneses after completing the IATF strict quarantine requirements.

It was a sorry setback for the Flying Titans, who had appeared to play with so much maturity while having the Cool Smashers’ numbers with their big wins in the first and third sets. But held under pressure, they cracked up in the fourth, including costly miscues at endgame.

They actually kept the match tight by trading three hits in the fifth, behind Kat Tolentino, but after Gumabao dumped in a hit after a couple of foiled Carlos’ attacks, the Flying Titans yielded another point on a net violation and Panaga frustrated Tolentino’s own blast.

Then came Carlos’ back-to-back hits and the former UP standout added another kill on the opposite side that sandwiched Maddie Madayag’s drop shot for a 9-4 Creamline lead.

Deanne Wong blocked Valdez in the ensuing play only to give back the point on a service miscue and the Cool Smashers racked up five of the last six points to pound out the victory in over two hours of top-class volleyball.

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