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Kurashiki Ablaze complete PVL invasion


Kurashiki Ablaze dethroned Creamline with a hard-fought, 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 20-25, 15-13, victory in a thrilling winner-take-all Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference gold medal match Sunday night at the packed Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Asaka Tamaru delivered another stellar performance including the game-clinching ace as the Ablaze completed the Japanese’s flawless conquest of the mid-season tournament. Kurashiki won all its six games including a four-set win over the Cool Smashers in the semifinals last Friday.

The Japan Division III club flirted with disaster after squandering a 2-1 match lead and going down a 6-8 hole in the fifth set.

Akane Hiraoka and Tamaru willed Kurashiki back to tie the decider at 12. Ced Domingo gave the Cool Smashers their last taste of the lead with a quick kill before Saki Tanabe scored back-to-back hits to put the Ablaze at championship point that paved the way for Tamaru’s ace that landed a mere inch from the line.

Creamline in a last ditched effort tried to challenge the call but was unsuccessful after the review.

“We’re very happy (we won the title) and very appreciative of (PVL president) Ricky (Palou) because he invited us in this conference,” a grateful Ablaze head coach Hideo Suzuki said.

Tamaru, who was named 1st Best Outside Spiker, poured a game-high 29 points off 28 kills and an ace in a performance she laced with 13 digs and 12 excellent receptions for Kurashiki.

“I’m very happy for this win. We feel that this championship would level up our confidence heading to our tournament in Japan in November,” Tamaru said.

Hiraoka scored 14 markers with 13 coming off kills, Yukino Yano and Miho Kawamura added 11 each while Saki Tanabe chipped in with 10 markers for the Ablaze, who will go back to Japan on Monday.

Skipper Kyoka Ohshima was named Finals Most Valuable Player.

The guest squad had the chance to finish off the Cool Smashers in the fourth set, fighting back from a 15-18 deficit to tie the frame at 20 off a Tanabe kill.  But Creamline refused to go down without a fight, sparking a closing 5-0 run with Jema Galanza pounding a down the line hit to force the fifth set.

Best Opposite Spiker winner Tots Carlos hammered 26 spikes to finish with 27 points and had 10 digs and 20 excellent receptions  in a losing cause for the Cool Smashers, who closed their campaign with back-to-back losses against the same rival.

Ced Domingo, who shared the Best Middle Blocker award with F2 Logistics’ Majoy Baron, got 20 points including five of Creamline’s 14 kill blocks while Jema Galanza had 18 markers.

Jia Morado-De Guzman tallied 33 excellent sets for the Cool Smashers. Team captain Alyssa Valdez, who got the 2nd Best Outside Spiker award, had a quiet six-point outing in just three sets of play due to a sore left knee.

Meanwhile,  Ces Molina of Cignal was named Conference MVP after a great run in helping the HD Spikers salvage a bronze medal.

Cignal playmaker Gel Cayuna won the Best Setter award while Kath Arado of PLDT was the Best Libero.

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