So rich in championship experience, having been in the Premier Volleyball League finals the last six conferences, winning four, including the recent Open Conference, Creamline puts its reputation on the line against a team soaking up the atmosphere of its own finals run.
But the Cool Smashers will have a different look in their drive to nail a fifth crown overall and second in the league’s pro era as they face a fired-up KingWhale-Taiwan side in a winner-take-all match set at 5:30 p.m. today (Sunday) at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Taiwanese primed themselves up for the championship, repelling Cignal HD, 25-18, 15-25, 25-21, 25-22 yesterday to sweep the semis with four straight wins for the momentum and confidence needed for their keenly awaited rematch with the Cool Smashers.
KWT dominated the opener then fought back from a blowout loss in the second set and a big deficit in the third to seize a 2-1 set lead before wearing down the HD Spikers in the fourth without top hitter Bea de Carvalho and ace playmaker Liao Yi-Jen, who saw action only in the early going before head coach Teng Yen-Min rested them in anticipation of a grind-out battle with the Cool Smashers.
Cignal ended with a 1-3 card.
Tsai Qin-Yao’s quick attack finished off the HD Spikers in one-hour and 51 minutes as the Taiwanese sustained their win run even behind their second stringers.
Germina Jacobs, who hardly saw action in the KWT’s first three games, came of the bench to fire 19 points, including 17 attacks, in a performance she hoped would merit her a spot in today’s championship match.
De Carvalho and Chang Chih-Hsuan scored nine points apiece while the steady Chen Chieh and Wang Yu-Wen added eight points each for the Taiwanese, who also pounced on the HD Spikers’ couple of mishits late in the fourth to pound out the victory.
Angeli Araneta led Cignal with 15 points while Roselyn Doria and Jerrili Malabana fired 13 hits apiece and skipper Rachel Ann Daquis scored nine points before cramping out late in the third frame.
Meantime, Creamline is also coming into the championship game reeling from a five-set defeat to the visiting squad just last Friday although the Cool Smashers can lean on the fact that they showed up without one of their top hitters coupled with the sidelining of their seasoned skipper late in the contest.
But the league’s top draw is expected to be back in full force with Jema Galanza and Alyssa Valdez tipped to join Tots Carlos, Celine Domingo, Risa Sato, Michelle Gumabao, Rose Vargas and playmaker Jia de Guzman for the all-important tussle.
The Cool Smashers, however, will need more than experience, power and crowd support to foil a rival reinforced by a killer of a hitter in de Carvalho and a mix of young and veteran locals eager and ready to score a repeat over the most feared team in the fold and complete a five-game sweep of the mid-season conference of the league organized by Sports Vision.
With the Brazilian import on the firing end, KWT outhit Creamline, 69-55, and though the Cool Smashers dominated the net with nine blocks, seven more than the Taiwanese, the latter pounced on their rivals’ sloppy service reception that netted them seven aces.
They also scored 28 points off the Cool Smashers’ miscues while yielding 25 of their own.
Yi-Jen also produced 38 excellent sets to outshine de Guzman, who finished with 18 in an abbreviated stint as Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses went for new combinations after securing the first finals berth with a sweep of first three games in the semis last Thursday.
But numbers won’t matter in sudden death but cohesion and poise and the knack to keep its nerve in check, particularly in pressure-packed stretches of each set.
“We’re excited but Creamline is good, and all its players are smart,” said KWT coach Teng Yen-Min, who is banking on De Carvalho again, along with Chen Li-Jun, Chang Chih-Hsuan and Liao, and the team’s ever-improving chemistry in pursuit of PVL glory.
De Carvalho braces for a power duel with Carlos with the former hard-pressed to match or surpass her 24-point explosion Friday after pumping in 14 and 19 points against Army and PLDT, respectively.
The Taiwanese heads-up plays had likewise earned them respect and support from the fans although the Cool Smashers remain the crowd favorites and are expected to draw inspiration again from their horde of followers.
After a couple of third place finishes (Reinforced and Open) since joining the league in 2017, Creamline has won four championships in six finals appearances although its crack at the fifth crown could be imperiled in the face of KWT’s remarkable showing marked by a back-to-back five-set escapes.
Meanwhile, PLDT, which blew two chances to get into the finals, and Cignal, which struggled again after a strong start in the conference, tangle at 2:30 p.m. for third place.
The conference’s top performers will be feted after the championship match.
The Creamline-KingWhale Taipei match will be aired live on One Sports (free to Air Ch 41 and Cignal CH 6) and One Sports+ (Cignal Ch 91 SD, Ch 261 HD). Both channels are also available on Cignal’s OTT Platform, Cignal Play, with video on demand also available on the platform.
The game can also be streamed on social media application KUMU and on the league’s official website pvl.ph.
2:30 p.m. – PLDT vs Cignal
5:30 p.m. – Creamline vs