MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Cignal HD is a step closer to a breakthrough finals appearance in the Premier Volleyball League, after an impressive four-set victory over Creamline, Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The HD Spikers displayed remarkable poise in the second and third sets before building a big lead in the fourth en route to a 23-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-18 victory.
The result gave Cignal HD a 2-0 record in the semifinals of the PVL Reinforced Conference, while dropping the Cool Smashers to 1-1. This was also the fourth straight win of the conference for the HD Spikers, who appear to be peaking at the right time.
"Sobrang happy kasi siyempre, kilala naman natin 'yung Creamline. Talagang mahirap silang talunin, kung hindi mo sila talaga paghahandaan, 'di ka magpapa-kundisyon, talagang mahihirapan," Cignal HD coach Shaq delos Santos said.
"I think first time namin na na-reach ito, nakuha namin na manalo against Creamline sa semifinals. So ito, malaking opportunity sa amin na mas maging better pa kami sa susunod na game namin," he added.
American import Tai Bierria came off the bench to score 21 points on 17 kills, three blocks and an ace, while Ria Meneses produced 11 points, and Angelia Araneta added 10 markers. The HD Spikers had fewer kills, 61-49, but got 33 free points off Creamline's unforced errors in the match.
The Cool Smashers had survived a late Cignal HD rally to take the opener, with Alyssa Valdez and Jema Galanza nailing the clutch hits. But the HD Spikers turned the tables in the second set, outlasting Creamline in a nip-and-tuck finish.
Creamline had a 23-22 lead after a Valdez hit, but a service error by Fille Cainglet-Cayetano forced a 23-all deadlock, and Bierra scored in back-to-back rallies to tie the match at one set a piece. The Cool Smashers committed 10 errors in the second period, negating a 16-10 advantage in kills.
In the extended third set, the Cool Smashers reached set point first, 24-23, off a hit by import Yeliz Basa but a service error by Jeanette Panaga kept the HD Spikers alive. A rejection by Bierria on Basa shifted the lead to Cignal HD, 25-24, but this time it was Rose Doria who sent her serve long to extend the set, 25-all.
Bierria committed an attack error but made up for it with a smart hit to keep the score tied at 26, before Meneses pounced on a bad pass by Creamline libero Kyla Atienza to give Cignal HD the lead for good, 27-26. Bierria's offspeed hit completed the win for the HD Spikers.
With momentum on their side, Cignal HD raced to a 20-12 advantage in the fourth set, and reached match point off a Meneses quick, 24-16. A service error by Gel Cayuna and a block by Panaga on Rachel Daquis momentarily stalled the HD Spikers, but Meneses capped their upset of the Cool Smashers with another kill -- her ninth of the match.
"The maturity is what kind of keeps us in it in those long sets, I think. We have a lot of veterans on the team, a lot of girls have been playing for a really long time. And so, in those tight sets, in those tight moments, they really know how to put the ball away and just keep their composure," Bierria said in praise of her teammates.
Cignal is seeking a first appearance in the PVL Finals since they joined the professional league in 2020.
Squandered in the loss was Valdez's 20-point, 22-dig effort for Creamline. Galanza had 13 points, and Basa scored 17 points before sitting out most of the fourth set in favor of Tots Carlos.