Creamline went to its middle in the absence of its top outside hitter as the Cool Smashers held off a rallying PLDT to pound out a 25-22, 25-18, 26-28, 25-22 victory in a scrambling launch to its grand slam bid in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference at the Philsports Arena in Pasig on Thursday.
Unable to put away a hard-fighting PLDT side, the Cool Smashers counted on the very player that helped anchor their romp in the Invitational finals as Ced Domingo, doing what she does best, banged in back-to-back quick attacks to foil the High Speed Hitters’ bid to send the match to a decider.
“I need to contribute, step up and do the role of the middle blocker/hitter,” said Domingo, who clinched the Finals MVP honors in the league’s mid-season conference.
She played her role to the hilt again with Tots Carlos sidelined by back issues, finishing with 18 points on 12 attacks while coming through with three kill blocks and three aces in a match graced by world No. 3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena.
Creamline thus joined early leaders Cignal, Chery Tiggo and Petro Gazz while PLDT slipped to 1-1.
The High Speed Hitters earlier frustrated the Cool Smashers’ sweep bid as import Elena Samoilenko rattled off three straight points, including a block touch that shoved PLDT back in the lead and at set point in the third, 24-23, after blowing three- and four-point leads, the last at 13-9.
The Cool Smashers, however, kept digging in, saving three set points but Jovie Prado fired a kill and Creamline fumbled in its offense after a PLDT assault, the ball failing to clear the net, thus giving the High Speed Hitters a chance to equalize.
But the many-time champions wrested control late in the fourth with Alyssa Valdez coming through with a blast off a broken play after a long exchange of tough angled shots and superb digging for a 23-20 Creamline lead.
Samoilenko, who unleashed a 35-point game in edging UAI-Army in five last weekend, scored on an off-the-block hit but Domingo delivered the first of her two quick hits and after Jema Galanza kept PLDT in the match with an attack error, playmaker Jia De Guzman set the former FEU stalwart for another quick attack that Wendy Semana had failed to keep in play.
Domingo thus matched import Yeliz Basa and Valdez’s 17-point outputs while Galanza backed them up with 13 hits, Pangs Panaga added six points and Michele Gumabao provided quality minutes, scoring three points in an in-and-out role for the Open Conference champions.
De Guzman also spiked Creamline’s win with 32 excellent sets, almost doubling PLDT’s combined 18.
Samoilenko slowed with a 24-point showing but nevertheless showed so much potential for PLDT, which drew 11 points from Domingo’s counterpart Mika Reyes and combined 15-point output from Joy Soyud and Dell Palomata.
The Cool Smashers scored 65 points on attacks, 13 more than the High Speed Hitters, which also yielded six points off the serve while scoring just one ace. PLDT, however, had more blocks, 10-6.