(UPDATED) Chery Tiggo is headed to the finals of the 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference, after another straight sets victory over Choco Mucho.
Jaja Santiago was unstoppable as the Crossovers claimed a 25-16, 26-24, 25-23 triumph in the do-or-die Game 3 of their semifinals series, Tuesday at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Chery Tiggo has now set up a best-of-3 finals series against defending Open Conference champion Creamline, which advanced to the finals on Monday night after sweeping Petro Gazz in their own semis series.
"The players were committed in our system, to each other," said Chery Tiggo coach Aaron Velez, whose team forced a Game 3 with a straight sets win Monday. "The trust is like a family for us, so we know that we're going to back up each other."
"Credit to Choco Mucho for giving us a good fight," he added. "They were able to push us to our full potential, and hopefully, we can sustain it."
Santiago had 17 points, converting 15 of her 27 attacks, along with an ace and a block. Older sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat contributed 16 points, but it was setter Jasmine Nabor who earned Player of the Game honors after tallying 28 excellent sets on top of three points, all off aces.
Chery Tiggo seized an early advantage after a comfortable first set win where they had a 17-11 lead in terms of kills. But they had to rally in the second set, as they trailed by as much as five points, 17-12, before hitting errors by Choco Mucho allowed the Crossovers to claw their way back.
Choco Mucho reached set point, 24-22, off a Caitlyn Viray hit but Kim Gequillana committed an uncharacteristic service error, and an ace by Santiago forced a deuce. Santiago-Manabat then put Chery Tiggo at set point, and a Kat Tolentino mishit completed the comeback for the Crossovers.
In another back-and-forth third set, Chery Tiggo again showed its poise. Trailing by two points for most of the way, they forced a tie off a Ponggay Gaston mishit and a Nabor ace, 20-all. A big hit by Tolentino tied the set for the last time at 23, but Mylene Paat brushed a hit off Viray, and Viray shanked her last pass in the next rally to gift the Crossovers the final point.
"'Yung game namin ngayon, sobrang pinaghandaan namin," said Nabor. "Hindi kami papayag na hanggang third or fourth lang… ang goal talaga namin is the championship."
Standing in Chery Tiggo's way are the Creamline Cool Smashers, who have the benefit of a one-day break after taking care of business against the Angels on Monday.
But the Crossovers can take comfort in their four-set win over the Cool Smashers in the elimination round, 25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20.
"We just have to be confident," Velez said of their finals series against the Alyssa Valdez-led Creamline squad.
Tolentino led the Flying Titans with 12 points, and Maddie Madayag added 11 markers.
But the Crossovers had a 44-37 lead in terms of attacks, and had a 9-4 advantage in terms of aces.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: