(UPDATED) New recruit Tots Carlos came up big, and the Creamline Cool Smashers overcame the PetroGazz Angels in four sets to secure their second win of the 2021 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference.
The Cool Smashers recovered from a loss in the opening set to take a 24-26, 28-26, 25-22, 25-20 victory on Tuesday afternoon at the PCV Soci-Civic and Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Carlos, the former standout for the University of the Philippines, came in the third and fourth sets to relieve Jema Galanza who was hampered by what appeared to be a right knee issue. After shaking off some early jitters, Carlos made an impact with clutch hits in the third set, including the kill that wrapped up their win.
"Lahat naman ng players, ready," said Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses. "Kaunting adjustment lang, ready na (si Tots) sa loob."
"Ako naman, laging ready. Like what the coaches and my teammates remind me, ready ako palagi," said Carlos, who previously played for Motolite before signing with Creamline in the offseason.
Carlos made big plays again in the fourth set, which saw Creamline trail, 11-4, before the Cool Smashers inched their way back. A block by Jeanette Panaga on Grethcel Soltones gave Creamline the lead, 17-16, and Carlos beat the PetroGazz blockers in the next rally for an 18-16 score that forced the Angels to sue for time.
Hits by Mean Mendrez kept PetroGazz within striking distance, but Carlos scored from the back row for a 22-19 advantage. After Soltones fired an attack wide, Carlos crushed a hit off the PetroGazz blockers to bring the Cool Smashers to match point.
The thrilling match ended when PetroGazz setter Ivy Perez committed a double contact violation.
Carlos finished with seven points in just two sets of action. Alyssa Valdez led Creamline with 16 points, while Panaga had 15 points including six kill blocks. Jia Morado had three points and 35 excellent sets in the match that lasted nearly two hours.
In a rematch of the 2019 PVL Open Conference finals, it was PetroGazz that struck first, thanks to middle blockers Remy Palma and Ria Meneses, and the clutch hits of veteran spiker Ces Molina. Meneses put the Angels at set point, 24-23, only for Myla Pablo to commit a service error that kept Creamline alive. But Molina was unstoppable down the stretch, nailing back to back hits to lift the Angels to a 1-0 lead.
In the second set, the Cool Smashers averted a meltdown as they nearly squandered four set points. They were ahead 24-22 when Panaga committed an attack error and Pablo scored on a hit to knot the count. A running hit by Panaga put Creamline on the brink again, but Palma responded with a running attack of her own to knot the set at 25.
Valdez scored off a smartly placed hit to make it 26-25, before Meneses buried a quick attack to tie the frame for the last time. In the next rally, Valdez brushed a hit off the PetroGazz blockers, and Meneses committed an attack error that wrapped the win for the Cool Smashers.
The Angels showed their grit in the third set in rallying from a 16-10 deficit, even taking a brief 17-16 lead when Carlos sent an attack wide. But the Cool Smashers were the steadier team down the stretch: a kill and an ace by Valdez, followed by a Carlos hit, gave the defending champions a 2-1 lead.
PetroGazz appeared to be on its way to sending the match to a decider but ran out of steam in the end game, committing errors that helped the Creamline cause.
Palma finished with 17 points and Meneses added 16, six of which came from blocks. Molina led PetroGazz with 18 points, including two aces. However, the Angels also gave away 30 points from their errors.
Creamline improved to 2-0, joining idle Chery Tiggo at the top of the league standings. PetroGazz dropped to 1-1.