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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Premier Volleyball League Finals: Duel of tradition, desire

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Two teams with explosive imports and equally talented locals head to the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference Finals riding the crest of a romp fashioned out in virtually the same style, finishing with 9-1 cards in the double round elims and crushing their respective Final Four rivals via sweep.

Premier Volleyball League Finals: Duel of tradition, desire
Hungry for title, the PetroGazz Angels hope to whoop it up in the end

Each team’s lone setback was dealt by the other with PetroGazz beating Creamline in the opening game and the Cool Smashers getting back at the Angels in the second round that highlighted their sweep of their next 11 games, including two in the semis, to earn a third straight crack at the championship.

Creamline actually won the first two, beating PayMaya in this conference last year and then foiling Ateneo-Motolite in the Open Conference finals.

Perhaps there lies the contrast in the title protagonists with the Cool Smashers boasting of championship experience and the Angels, who placed fifth here last year and wound up fourth in the Open, coming into the series hungry for recognition.

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Game One is set at 5 p.m. tomorrow after the 3 p.m. clash for third between BanKo-Perlas and PacificTown Army at the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan.

Michele Gumabao cites consistency as the reason behind Creamline’s success although she stressed the need for the Cool Smashers, who overwhelmed the PacificTown Army Lady Troopers in the Final Four, to stay focused in anticipation of a big challenge from the fired-up Angels.

“Facing a new rival in the finals is good as it only proves that we are consistent as a team, consistent in our teamwork, in our preparation and in our practices,” said Gumabao, who scored a total of 54 in the elims and normed seven markers in the semis.

Premier Volleyball League Finals: Duel of tradition, desire
Cohesion has been Creamline’s main weapon in its title-retention drive

“But right now, nobody’s thinking about the win streak or the past. We’re just focusing on the finals,” added Creamline’s opposite spiker, who has been complementing well with imports Kuttika Kaewpin of Thailand and Ale Blanco of Venezuela and locals Alyssa Valdez, Risa Sato, Jema Galanza, setter Jia Morado and liberos Melissa Gohing and Kyla Atienza.

The Cool Smashers are surely drawing up ploys to slow down—at the very least—PetroGazz’s prized import tandem of Wilma Salas of Cuba and American Janisa Johnson, whose spiking prowess, leadership and poise helped put the Angels within two wins from realizing a dream championship in the league organized by Sports Vision and sponsored by Mikasa, Asics and KFC.

“Going back to our team building before the season, we have really set this goal (to reach the finals),” said PetroGazz coach Arnold Laniog. “Now, we’re here, it’s a different thing.”

“We’ll give it all that we’ve got—for the championship,” he added.

To achieve that, Salas, the No. 2 scorer behind Motolite’s Channon Thompson, with 212 points after the elims and poured in 48 markers in their two-game sweep of the BanKo-Perlas Spikers, and Johnson, No 4 in the elims and fired 36 markers in the Final Four, must sustain their attacking ways and the likes of Jeanette Panaga, Cherry Nunag, setter Djanel Cheng, Cai Baloaloa, Alyssa Layug, Paneng Mercado and Jonah Sabete and liberos Rica Enclona and Cienne Cruz must step up to at least neutralize the Cool Smashers’ edge in local support.

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