Chery Tiggo rode on a big first set fightback and dominated the import-less F2 Logistics in the next two as the Crossovers fashioned out a 25-23, 25-21, 25-22 victory for an early share of the lead in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference elims at the Philsports Arena in Pasig yesterday.
The Crossovers closed out with seven straight points to snatch the opening frame with EJ Laure capping their stirring comeback with three straight blasts, the last hitting the net but drawing two F2 defenders, leaving the ball undefended when it dropped to the Cargo Movers’ frontcourt.
The inaugural pro league champions then kept pounding the Cargo Movers defense in the next set behind Mylene Paat, Czarina Carandang, Laure and Montenegrin import Jelena Cvijovic while coming up with good passing, digging, setting and blocking. They then pulled through in a back-and-forth third set skirmish to complete the straight-set win in one hour and 27 minutes.
“As long as our locals will perform, and with the help of our import, I always believe that we could win. We had a good start and we worked on our strategy not to make it close in the end,” said Chery Tiggo coach Clarence Esteban.
But the victory, which matched PLDT and Cignal opening day wins, more than showed what a healthy Chery Tiggo side could offer after the Crossovers struggled in the recent Invitationals due to the sidelining of key players, including leader Dindin Manabat and the heavy-hitting Laure.
“We stuck to the game plan and we made the necessary adjustments,” said Laure, who finished with 11 points in a solid backup to skipper Paat’s topscoring 16-point output.
The Cargo Movers suited up without American reinforcement Lindsay Stalzer due to health and safety protocols although the locals had in a long stretch showed they’re more than capable of taking the Crossovers head-on, controlling majority of the opener, only to crack in the face of the latter’s furious rally.
Chery Tiggo also cashed in on F2 Logistics’ miscues, scoring nine off the Cargo Movers’ unforced errors while yielding five of their own to gain the head-start.
“Going from top to bottom, that’s what motivated us,” said Chery Tiggo playmaker Jasmine Nabor, referring to the team’s dismal drop from being a champion (2021) to eighth place in this year’s Open Conference. “We also kept trusting each other in and outside of the court.”
The Cargo Movers, also hounded by health issues that forced them to skip the Invitationals after a sixth place finish in the Open Conference, kept it close in the third but lost steam in the stretch, enabling the Crossovers to pull away at 17-14 before all but settling the issue at 23-16.
But the Cargo Movers proved they’re far from being finished, taking five of the next six points, including three saved match points before blowing it all on a failed passing play.
The locals actually took the scoring cudgels for Chery Tiggo as Cvijovic finished with just six points although she produced seven excellent digs and 10 excellent receptions.
Kalei Mau led F2 Logistics with 20 points while Kim Dy and Ivy Lacsina combined for 16 points as the Cargo Movers battled the Crossovers to a tight 43-44 duel in attacks but yielded 26 unforced errors, nine more than their rivals.