Forget about talent and skills or bench depth. At crunchtime, it’s all about mind and heart and perhaps resiliency as Creamline and Petro Gazz face-off in sudden death for the coveted Premier Volleyball League All Filipino crown at the SM Mall of Asia Arena Thursday.
Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses put it all in context when he said: “Hindi na skills ang laban – mental game na.”
But the Cool Smashers flashed not only their mental toughness but also their big fighting heart then showed poise in a nerve-wracking stretch to stop the Angels, 18-25, 25-16, 25-18, 23-25, 15-6, in another dramatic duel Tuesday that sent their best-of-three series into a winner-take-all setto.
Gametime is at 5:30 p.m. with the match to be telecast live on One Sports, One Sports+, Cignal Play, and SMART Live Stream and on pvl.ph.
Despite its championship experience, Creamline had to buck a lot of odds to force the equalizer and get back on track for a crack at a sixth PVL crown. Dropping Game One of a title series, 22-25, 26-24, 23-25, 24-26, the Cool Smashers were also dragged into another five-set struggle in a finals appearance.
But they rose to the challenge as Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza, Michele Gumabao, Ced Domingo and playmaker Jia Morado, along with the rest of the Cool Smashers, stepped up to foil the Angels with that blistering run in the fifth set and send the highly-charged series back to where it started Sunday.
“Kasi ‘yung skills andyan lagi, pero kung sino yung maglalaro ng maganda, ‘yung magsusuporta sa isa’t isa, ‘yun ang importante. Lumabas ang character ng bawa’t isa, na walang bibigay, walang magpapatalo. Yun naman ang importante, yung 100 percent nila,” said Meneses, whose Game 2 victory also fueled his drive for a third PVL championship.
The Angels did rue their missed chance to wrap it up in two but coach Oliver Almadro opted to put all the pent-up emotions of their failed sweep bid behind.
“We’ll forget about the loss and we’ll bounce back in Game 3,” said Almadro, whose wards’ fightback in a rip-roaring fourth set skirmish sparked hopes for the two-time Reinforced chamions’ rise to the PVL throne the third time around.
But Meneses and the Cool Smashers had other things mind.
“Unlike sa Game One, buo ‘yung team na lumaban, all-out talaga ang suporta sa isa’t isa,” said Carlos, who poured in 20 points in Game Two.
But it was the ever-reliable Gumabao who anchored the team’s fifth-set breakaway, producing a mix of everything on her way to a top-scoring 21-point performance she spiked with four kill blocks and 14 excellent digs.
Galanza also put in a 17-point game and Domingo added 14 markers while holding her ground at the middle against MJ Phillips with Pangs Panaga, who chipped in six points, while de Guzman kept the team together with another stellar play of 30 excellent sets.
But the Angels hardly lacked the firepower needed against the star-studded Cool Smashers as four turned in double-digit efforts with Remy Palma finishing with 16 points, Aiza Pontillas logging 15 markers and Jonah Sabete and Phillips matching 10-point outputs. Grethcel Soltones, however, settled for an eight-point game after a 14-point performance in Game One.
The Angels also failed to execute their plays in the clutch and the Cool Smashers pounced in to string eight straight points that all but settled the outcome.
In a game it could not afford to lose, Creamline produced 62 attack points against Petro Gazz’s 54, came up with 12 blocks against their rivals’ eight, and scored six aces, five more than the Angels.
They also netted 21 points off the Angels’ miscues while yielding 16 of their own, finished with more excellent digs, 58-37, excellent sets, 33-22, and excellent receptions, 39-37.
But in sudden death, stats are deemed inconsequential.
“Kailangan, ready sa situation all the time. Haharapin namin, kung dikitan, kung lamang sila or kami ang lamang, basta gagawan namin ng paraan,” said Meneses. “Puso, dapat doble pa, at composure. Sa pressure game, basta me composure ka, makakagalaw ka ng maganda.”