(UPDATED) The Chery Tiggo Crossovers made the big plays down the stretch to overcome a stiff challenge from California Precision Sports (CPS) in the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) Champions League, Monday at the Aquamarine Recreational Center in Lipa City, Batangas.
Joy Dacoron and Mylete Paat came up with clutch hits in Chery Tiggo's hard-fought 25-22, 27-25, 25-23 victory over the young squad, composed of teenagers with an average age of 16 years old.
It was a bounce-back win for the Crossovers who fell to PetroGazz in five sets on Sunday. Chery Tiggo now has a 2-1 win-loss record in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, California fell to 0-3, but the youngsters continued to impress after dragging the defending PVL Open Conference champions to deep waters in every set.
"They are very admirable. Very disciplined. You can see already their determination and it's going to be a bright future for them," Chery Tiggo coach Aaron Velez said of CPS.
The team with the most wins after the single round-robin event wins the Champions League crown.
Paat finished with 17 points, while Dacoron had seven. Justine Dorog tallied seven points, 10 digs, and 15 receptions in an all-around effort for the Crossovers.
Chery Tiggo took a 24-20 lead in the opening set off a big hit by Dindin Santiago-Manabat, but a powerful hit by California's Jelai Gajero and an attacking error by Elaine Kasilag left the door open for CPS. Fortunately for the Crossovers, Paat came through with a kill from the back row to wrap up the set.
In a nip-and-tuck second set, it was California that reached set point first, 24-22, off a back row hit by 16-year-old Caisey Dongallo. Paat and Dacoron netted back-to-back kills to force a deuce, and a Dacoron hit from the middle put Chery Tiggo at set point, 26-25. She followed it up with a rejection of 15-year-old Jenalyn Umayam at the net for a 2-0 Chery Tiggo lead.
California appeared headed for victory in Set 3 as they led most of the way, but the re-entry of Santiago-Manabat into the game energized the Crossovers. Dorog finished off a combination play for a 21-all count, setting up a tight finish.
A Dongallo kill gave California its last lead, 23-22, but Santiago-Manabat responded with a crosscourt attack for a 23-all count. Dacoron pounced on an overpass by CPS to put Chery Tiggo at match point, 24-23, and Paat finished off the young team with a crosscourt kill of her own.
Dongallo led the way for CPS with 23 points, while Gajero finished with 14 points, 13 digs, and seven receptions.
California returns to action on Tuesday, where they will take on Baguio (0-3) in a battle of winless teams.
Chery Tiggo gets a one-day break before facing Baguio on Wednesday.