MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Creamline secured a third-place finish in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference, though it did not come without cost to the Cool Smashers.
The Cool Smashers recovered from a third-set blip to claim a 25-15, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21 victory over the Chery Tiggo Crossovers, Tuesday at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
Though they fell short of their grand slam aspirations, Creamline still finished on the PVL podium for the 10th conference in a row. However, it came with a price as the Cool Smashers lost team captain Alyssa Valdez to a right knee injury early in the third set of the match.
Tots Carlos (19 points, 11 digs) and Jema Galanza (16 points, 12 digs) picked up the scoring slack to push Creamline to victory in four sets. Valdez had 10 points before her exit, having hit her knee on the floor while going for a dig in Set 3.
"Siyempre happy kami. Happy kami at natapos 'yung campaign namin this year na naka-bronze kami, at saka nanalo kami. So masaya kami," said Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses.
"Masaya kami, kasi we ended the season very well," added Carlos.
The Cool Smashers completed a sweep of Chery Tiggo in the third-place series even without Turkish import Yeliz Basa, who dealt with some nagging ailments that kept her from suiting up for Creamline.
Already up two sets, Creamline appeared headed for a sweep as they took a 6-3 lead in the third. But that was when they lost Valdez, as the veteran had to be helped off the court after hurting her right knee. The Cool Smashers still led for most of the way but couldn't close out the Crossovers: back-to-back hits by Jelena Cvijovic and Mylene Paat allowed Chery Tiggo to break a 23-all deadlock and extend the match.
But the Cool Smashers would not be denied. They erased an early deficit in Set 3, with Jeanette Panaga's rejection of Cvijovic giving them the lead for good, 14-13. Chery Tiggo still threatened late, coming within one point, 20-19, off an EJ Laure ace. But Creamline won the next four points, capped by a quick kill from Panaga, to reach match point, 24-19.
Hits by May Luna and Paat allowed the Crossovers to stay alive, but Galanza's down-the-line attack ended matters in Creamline's favor after two hours and 20 minutes.
"Sa training, lahat naman kami ginagawa 'yung pare-parehong drill, pare-parehong pwesto. So 'pag pinasok kami, iisa lang naman 'yung sistema, hindi naman kami tao-tao. So 'yung ginagawa namin, 'pag nawala 'yung isa, meron at meron 'yan na mag-fi-fill," Carlos said of their response to Valdez's injury.
Creamline drew a combined 26 points from Panaga and Domingo; they had a 67-44 advantage in kills and scored 10 points off their serves. Playmaker Jia de Guzman was credited with 26 excellent sets in a Player of the Match performance.
Paat scored 19 points for the Crossovers, while Cvijovic put up 13 points and Laure finished with 11.
This is the first time that Creamline has finished in third place since the 2017 PVL Open Conference.