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SERIES CLINCHER – Creamline, Cignal eye title showdown

‘It’s always harder to close out a series. It’s definitely (filled with) pressure.’

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PVL ALYSSA Valdez and Creamline go for the jugular against Chery Tiggo to advance to a sixth straight All-Filipino Conference finals.

Games today:

(Philsports Arena)

4 p.m. — Choco Mucho vs Cignal

6 p.m. — Creamline vs Chery Tiggo

 

Defending champion Creamline and Cignal try to set up a finals showdown when they shoot for a series sweep against their respective opponents in Game 2 of the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference semifinals today at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Drawing first blood in dominating fashion, the unbeaten Cool Smashers are out to finish off Chery Tiggo in the main game at 6 p.m.

Kicking off the second playdate of the pair of best-of-three semis series are the HD Spikers and Choco Mucho at 4 p.m.

Creamline easily dismantled the Crossovers, 25-18, 27-25, 25-22, last Thursday to move within a win away from entering a sixth straight all-local title showdown and 10th overall championship appearance.

But the Cool Smashers, who are on a 12-game winning streak, remain wary of their young and determined rivals.

“It’s always harder to close out a series. It’s definitely (filled with) pressure,” Creamline skipper Alyssa Valdez, who had 12 points in the series opener, said.

“If the pressure is at 100 percent in the first game, it will surely intensify in the second game. We have things to improve on our errors. But we’ll take this (Game 1) win as a confidence booster for the next game and to close out (the series), hopefully.”

Aside from Valdez, Creamline will also bank on their other old reliables in reigning conference Most Valuable Player Tots Carlos and do-it-all winger Jema Galanza along with Best Setter frontrunner Kyle Negrito, Jeanette Panaga and Michele Gumabao.

Chery Tiggo would need to get more from the rest of its roster as only Eya Laure reached double figures in the opener to force a rubber match on Tuesday and keep its title hopes alive.

The Crossovers have yet to reach the finals after ruling the 2021 Open Conference held inside the Ilocos bubble.

Meanwhile, Cignal braces for a tougher match against crowd darling Choco Mucho.

The HD Spikers pulled off a reverse sweep over the stunned Flying Titans, 18-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-19, 15-10, to inch closer to a breakthrough All-Filipino finals appearance and first championship stint since a runnerup finish in last year’s Reinforced Conference.

It was Cignal’s composure and veteran smarts that got it through the marathon match that lasted two hours and 39 minutes, getting the breaks of the game late in the fifth set for a finishing 6-0 blitz after trailing 9-10.

But head coach Shaq delos Santos knows Choco Mucho won’t just roll over and die that easily.

“We just need to stay focused on our game plan. We have to stick to it and hopefully execute it properly in Game 2,” Delos Santos said.

“There’s only one day to prepare but we’re ready for it because even before the semis we know that the schedule will be tight. Hopefully, we get to recover quickly coming off a five-setter.”

Top MVP contender Ces Molina, who dropped a triple-double of 23 points, 19 digs and 16 excellent receptions, Vanie Gandler, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Riri Meneses and heady playmaker Gel Cayuna are out to deliver the same inspired performance in Game 1 to close out the series.

But it is easier said than done as the Flying Titans, who saw their 10-game winning run halted, will be throwing everything they have to avoid another meltdown.

Choco Mucho has lost five straight semis matches overall after bowing out in the 2021 and 2022 Open Conferences.

Sisi Rondina, Kat Tolentino, Cherry Nunag, Isa Molde and Maddie Madayag, along with setter Deanna Wong, will have payback in their minds come game time.

Game 1 of the best-of-three Finals is on 14 December at the Mall of Asia Arena.

 

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