MANILA (UPDATED) - The Creamline Cool Smashers shrugged off the absence of Alyssa Valdez to defeat the Petro Gazz Angels, 25-18, 25-20, 25-22, in their first game of the 2023 Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference.
The Cool Smashers are defending their crown without Valdez, who is still recovering from a knee injury that she suffered in the Reinforced Conference. But the veteran Creamline crew didn't miss a beat without their captain, dismissing the Gazz Angels in a rematch of last season's Open Conference Finals at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday night.
Michele Gumabao, back in the starting line-up as the opposite hitter, had 13 points on 11 kills, a block, and an ace. Celine Domingo matched her effort, while Tots Carlos -- now playing as an outside hitter -- scored all 11 of her points on attacks. Pangs Panaga had 10 points, including four of Creamline's seven blocks.
"Alam naman natin 'yung PetroGazz ay galing din sa champon ng last conference, kaya talagang pinag-handaan din namin," Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses said after the game. "Naging maganda lang 'yung service receive namin sa crucial part, kasi lagi kaming nahahabol sa second and third sets eh."
The Cool Smashers survived their own error-prone ways to hold on for a 25-18 win in the first set, which they comfortably led 23-11 before the Gazz Angels made their move.
Gaining momentum from their second set comeback, Petro Gazz engaged Creamline in a nip-and-tuck affair in the second set. They led 20-18 off a 1-2 play by Chie Saet, before the Cool Smashers pounced on their miscues to score the final seven points of the frame.
A crosscourt hit by Jema Galanza sparked Creamline's 7-0 run, with Galanza's attack giving them the lead for good, 21-20. PetroGazz shot itself in the foot when a miscommunication between Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Mariella Gabarad put the Cool Smashers at set point, 24-20, and Maizo-Pontillas sent her next attack wide to hand the winner to the Rebisco-backed squad,
The Cool Smashers proved to be the more composed team anew in the third set, as they erased a late deficit to force a 22-all count off a Domingo block on Nicole Tiamzon.
Gumabao's ace put Creamline ahead, and Domingo followed with a quick hit that sent the Cool Smashers to the brink of victory, 24-22.
PetroGazz wound up gifting Creamline with the winning point as Jonah Sabete's attack hit the tape.
The Gazz Angels committed 21 unforced errors in the match to only 15 for Creamline. The Cool Smashers also had a 45-33 advantage in kills.
Maizo-Pontillas and Tiamzon each scored 10 points for the Gazz Angels, who were without star middle blocker MJ Phillips due to a shoulder injury.