PVL: PetroGazz stuns Creamline in Game 1 to draw first blood


Posted at Mar 26 2023 09:48 PM | Updated as of Mar 26 2023 10:22 PM

The PetroGazz Angels celebrate a point against the Creamline Cool Smashers. PVL Media.
The PetroGazz Angels celebrate a point against the Creamline Cool Smashers. PVL Media.

MANILA (UPDATED) -- The PetroGazz Angels ended their long losing streak to Creamline at the best possible time, as they outlasted the Cool Smashers to draw first blood in the PVL All-Filipino Conference Finals.

In front of a crowd of over 11,500 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday evening, the Gazz Angels took a hard-earned 25-22, 24-26, 25-23, 26-24 triumph in Game 1 of the best-of-3 series. 

PetroGazz, considered underdogs in the series, displayed their grittiness on defense and pounced on Creamline's untimely errors to win the lengthy match that lasted three hours and five minutes. They snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Cool Smashers in the process.

"I'm happy with what my players did. They are composed. They showed character towards the endgame, and they really helped each other and trusted each other," said PetroGazz coach Oliver Almadro. 

Jonah Sabete turned in a heroic effort for PetroGazz, battling cramps to deliver 18 points on 16 attacks and two blocks on top of 15 receptions. Aiza Maizo-Pontillas added 15 points, and Grethcel Soltonees scored 14 -- all on kills. 

PetroGazz reached match point off a service error by Michele Gumabao, 24-21, but the Cool Smashers proceeded to win the next three rallies on the strength of Tots Carlos and Jema Galanza. But MJ Phillips uncorked a crosscourt hit that put PetroGazz on the brink again, 25-24, and Almadro took a risk by calling for a challenge midway through the next rally.

The PetroGazz coach challenged for a net violation, and replays showed that the Cool Smashers indeed touched the net, giving the Gazz Angels the final point in anticlimactic fashion. 

It was Creamline's 22nd error of the match. 

"I called it," said Almadro of the challenge. "Wala namang mawawala eh. Then I trusted the Lord na lang na talagang net."

Soltones carried PetroGazz to a 23-21 lead in the opening set, and the Cool Smashers gifted the Gazz Angels a point when Ced Domingo's serve went long, 24-22. That set up Sabete's off-the-block hit for a 1-0 lead.

But the Cool Smashers rebounded in the second frame thanks to PetroGazz's errors. A crafty push by Djanel Cheng to zone 1 had knotted the count at 24, only for Remy Palma to go wide on a down-the-line hit, and for Soltones to send her next attack to the net.

PetroGazz recovered in Set 3 with Palma giving them a lift through her net defense. She came up with a clutch block of Michele Gumabao for set point, 24-21. Gumabao responded with back-to-back hits, but the Cool Smashers were called for a net violation in the final rally to give the Gazz Angels a 2-1 lead.

The Gazz Angels went on to control most of Set 4 before Creamline's final push, but another net violation erased the Cool Smashers' hopes of forcing a decider. 

Galanza and Gumabao each had 18 points while Carlos finished with 17 markers; Galanza also had 15 digs and seven receptions. The Cool Smashers had fewer kills, 68-63, than the Gazz Angels. 

Game 2 of the series is on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.