Kurashiki Ablaze completed a semifinal sweep at the expense of erstwhile unbeaten defending champion Creamline, 25-20, 25-21, 18-25, 25-14, in a preview of their Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference gold medal match Friday night at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
The Japanese guest club showed nerves of steel in fending off the Cool Smashers’ comeback attempt with a telling 10-0 run midway in the fourth set on its way to a perfect 5-0 win-loss record.
“We’re happy we won against the defending champions. But we still have to face them in the finals. Until the next challenge,” Ablaze coach Hideo Suzuki said.
Kurashiki and Creamline battle one more time on Sunday for all the marbles in the winner-take-all final.
Kurashiki relied on its vaunted floor defense and played disciplined volleyball to hand Creamline its first defeat in the tournament after seven straight victories. The Cool Smashers closed their semis campaign with a 4-1 slate.
Most Valuable Player candidate Asaka Tamaru led two other Kurashiki hitters in double figures with 19 points, all coming off kills, and had 11 excellent receptions.
Saki Tanabe added 15 markers while Yukino Yano had 13 points and 13 excellent receptions for the Ablaze, who committed only 19 errors compared to the Cool Smashers’ 29 including the game-ending service miscue by Filipino-Japanese Risa Sato.
Creamline gave Kurashki a scare in the fourth frame after taking a 12-11 lead, but the Ablaze unleashed 10 unanswered points take the fight out of the reigning titlists.
Libero Kaoru Takahashi had 16 of Kurashiki’s 51 digs.
“I know Creamline has strong offense, so I just concentrated on receiving,” Takahashi said.
Jema Galanza finished with 12 points and 11 excellent receptions, Sato played her best game in the conference with 10 markers while Tots Carlos also had 10 for the Cool Smashers.
Skipper Alyssa Valdez was limited to just seven points after averaging 16 markers in their previous three semis games. The veteran spiker was pulled out in the third set and sat out of the fourth with a sore left knee that needed to be iced.
Bernadeth Pons got nine points off the bench.