Cool Smashers stall Lady Troopers

HEAVY-HITTING Creamline crushed Army Black Mamba with its vaunted power game, 25-20, 25-22, 25-16, to assure itself of joint first place at the close the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference eliminations at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan Saturday.

The one-hour and 21-minute victory, the Cool Smashers’ fifth against a loss, also kept sister team Choco Mucho’s semifinal hopes alive, although slim, with the Flying Titans needing to hurdle the ousted Petro Gazz Angels in three or four sets in the final match of a busy three-game bill later in the day and force a tie with the Lady Troopers at 3-3 won-lost.

PLDT, the other team in the wild chase for a semfinalis berth in the mid-season conference of the league organized by Sports Vision, played semifinalist Cignal HD (4-1) late Saturday with the High Speed Hitters hoping to finish at 4-2 and avoid going through the tiebreaker.

Heading to Saturday’s last eliminations playdate, Army and PLDT have 9 points while Choco Mucho has 6. But the straight-set loss stalled Army, and a 3-0 or 3-1 win by Choco Mucho over Petro Gazz later would net the Flying Titans three points and would tie them with the Lady Troopers at fourth.

Ties will then be broken through the number of sets won and lost.

But a Petro Gazz win would knock Choco Mucho off the race.

The Lady Troopers, who zeroed in on a semis spot with a three-set win over Chery Tiggo last Tuesday, came armed to the teeth against the Cool Smashers, holding them to tight duels in the first two sets, only to lose steam in the face of the Open Conference champions’ strong finishing kick.

Army also kept it close in the third, threatening to within one a number of times, the last at 16-17. But a service error gave Creamline a two-point cushion and Jema Galanza and Jia de Guzman combined in a decisive 7-0 windup capped by the latter’s ace.

“It’s a big boost (for our semis campaign). We really wanted to win our last (elims) game,” said Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses, “But we needed to perform well, work on every point and minimize the errors, especially on service and receive.”

Alyssa Valdez unloaded 15 points, Tots Carlos delivered 13 hits and Jema Galanza finished with 11 points for the Cool Smashers, who also drew nine hits from Celine Domingo, on their way to a 49-attack team output, 15 more than the Lady Troopers.

De Guzman also produced 22 excellent sets for the crowd favorites, who also dominated the net with seven blocks against Army’s four and came through with seven aces, five more than their rivals.

Jovelyn Gonzaga struggled trying to find her rhythm and ended up with 10 points, the same output put in by the comebacking Honey Royse Tubino while veterans Nene Bautista and MJ Balse-Pabayo combined for 10 points for the Lady Troopers, who drew 13 excellent sets from Ivy Perez.