MANILA (UPDATED) - The Creamline Cool Smashers are on the verge of a Finals appearance after surviving the Petro Gazz Angels in five sets, Sunday at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Tots Carlos came up big in the fifth set to power the Cool Smashers to a 27-29, 25-23, 16-25, 25-17, 16-14 triumph in Game 1 of their best-of-3 semifinals series.
The former University of the Philippines star scored 23 points, and her loaded serve in the final rally forced a poor reception from Petro Gazz's Grethcel Soltones that was quickly put away by Jema Galanza.
Another win by Creamline in Game 2, set for Monday in the same venue, will propel them to the finals of the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference.
Alyssa Valdez fired 25 points on 22 kills, and Jema Galanza added 16 points while coming off the bench in the first two sets. The Cool Smashers had a massive 79-59 advantage in kills, offsetting the 35 unforced errors that they committed.
"It's really the fight and the will of the team to win," Carlos said after their victory, which took two hours and 14 minutes to complete. "Hirap kami sa first attack, so doon namin binabawi sa coverage and sa counter attack."
"Nakita niyo naman, the blockers of Petro Gazz are really good. Talagang pinag-prepare namin ang coverage namin," she added.
The Angels struck first, pouncing on Creamline's 12 errors in the opening set to take the first frame in extended fashion. But the defending champions got their bearings in the second, knotting the count after surviving a late charge by Petro Gazz.
It was the Myla Pablo Show in Set 3, as the veteran attacker took charge of the Petro Gazz offense. The Angels' floor defense also flustered the Cool Smashers; back-to-back hits by Pablo handed the Angels a 2-1 advantage. But Creamline reversed the momentum in the fourth set, wherein they limited Petro Gazz to just 10 attack points and scored four easy points off their serve.
"We just really listened to our coaches, kasi there were some adjustments in the middle of the game, towards the latter part of the third set and fourth set," said Valdez. "We're just really happy at that moment na na-apply din namin."
Creamline raced to a 5-1 start in Set 5 but the Angels refused to go away easily. Kills by Soltones and Rem Palma knotted the count at six, setting the stage for a back-and-forth frame that went to an extension as well.
A down-the-line hit by Carlos sent Creamline to match point first, 14-13, but the Cool Smashers were called for a violation in the next rally that tied the frame for the last time, 14-all. Carlos would again come up big, firing a crosscourt hit for a second match point, 15-14.
She went to the back row to serve but Carlos remained a threat, as her heavy serve proved too much for Soltones to handle well. The Petro Gazz spiker overpassed, straight to Galanza who took care of business at the net.
"We're just really happy that Jema really fulfilled her role," said Valdez. "Mapa nasa labas, papasok siya for floor defense and receive, papasok siya for spiking, she's just always there. I think I can see everyone is really maturing."
For the Cool Smashers, this marked their fourth time this conference that they have gone to five sets; they are 4-0 in those games.
Meanwhile, it was another sorry loss for the Angels who also dropped their elimination round encounter against Creamline in four sets back on July 20.
Pablo finished with a game-high 26 points, 25 of which came on kills. Ces Molina had 17 points, and Soltones finished with 10 markers.