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Chery Tiggo wants bronze, rival scalp

Chery Tiggo has built a rivalry with Creamline right from the moment it joined the Premier Volleyball League two years ago.

A team with a proud winning tradition during its stint in the defunct Philippine Superliga, the Crossovers’ arrival in the PVL created a buzz among volleyball pundits as it gave the Cool Smashers a formidable challenger.

Suddenly Creamline’s dynastic rule faced a serious threat.

And Cherry Tiggo in its maiden campaign toppled the mighty Cool Smashers in an action-packed and dramatic come-from-behind finals series win in the 2021 Open Conference to become the first champion in the country’s first and only professional women’s volleyball league.

Although the Crossovers came up short of making a repeat this season as Creamline re-established its dominance in the first two tournaments of this season, they have already laid the foundation of classic rivalry that fans anticipate to watch.

The Crossovers rekindled the rivalry in this season-ending Reinforced Conference.

In fact, Chery Tiggo once again put a stop to Creamline’s domination by spoiling its grand slam attempt in the semifinals.

Although the Cool Smashers won the game in five sets, the Crossovers’ two-set wins were enough to knock their rival out of the title race and eventually forged a showdown for bronze.

Chery Tiggo head coach Clarence Esteban remains defiant that they can still pull another upset despite dropping their podium battle series opener, 22-25, 25-22, 5-25, 19-25, last Thursday.

“Of course, we aim to win over Creamline. It hits differently when you get a chance to beat a team-to-beat like Creamline,” Esteban said.

Compared to their 2021 team that has the likes of Jaja Santiago and a healthy Dindin Manabat, the Crossovers, who are in a rebuilding stage after unloading seven players after the Invitational Conference, are basically fielding a team still building chemistry.

“Obviously, we are the underdogs roster-wise and at the same time, we’re still in the rebuilding stage,” Esteban said.

“That 2021 team is really loaded with players like Jaja Santiago and Dindin playing 100 percent healthy. But our team right now is just aiming to reach where are current roster can take us.”

Behind leading Most Valuable Player Mylene Paat, solid middles Czarina Carandang and Roselle Baliton, all-around winger EJ Laure, Shaya Adorador and Montenegrin import Jelen Cvijovic, Esteban is confident of his team’s chances of turning things around today in Game 2 at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

They can force a rubber match or even steal the third place outright.

A straight-set win over Creamline coupled with Petro Gazz completing a finals series sweep of Cignal will hand Chery Tiggo the bronze via tiebreak.

“We try to maintain the mentality of giving an all-out effort to put us in a good position to win against Creamline,” Esteban said.

“It’s a challenge for our team to beat them to the best of our players’ abilities and skills.”

This scenario gives Chery Tiggo-Creamline rivalry a different flavor as they stake their pride for a podium finish albeit not in their usual championship battle.

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