In the first two sets, Creamline was not the same Creamline that has dominated thus far in the 2017 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference.
As it turns out, the flu-stricken squad just needed more time than usual to get going.
Battling back from two sets down, the Cool Smashers successfully defended their still spotless slate against University of the Philippines in five sets, 19-25, 18-25, 25-18, 25-17, and 16-14 on Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Already without top hitter Alyssa Valdez, who is fulfilling her duties with the national team, the league-leaders looked out of sync at the onset.
“’Di kami nakukumpleto sa practice because of flu,” assistant coach Oliver Almadro shared post-game.
He then continued, “Kaya coming into this game, sabi lang namin na pairalin ang maturity.”
Indeed, Creamline did not panic even as their perfect record was in grave danger. “Nung down kami ng two sets, sinabi lang namin na believe we will get this set. Ayun, nakuha isang set tapos nakuha pangalawa,” Almadro said.
Pau Soriano steadied the squad all throughout and totaled 25 points, all but one from kills, while Cesca Racraquin and Rosemarie Vargas finally found their marks in the third set.
While they forced a deciding set, the Cool Smashers still found themselves pushed to the brink with the Lady Maroons at match point, 14-13.
The Creamline defense stood strong from that point, however, as Racraquin put the punctuation mark on the comeback with two points in their 3-0 finisher. “Nung huli, andaming error ni Ces, pero Jia [Morado] trusted Ces pa rin,” Almadro expressed.
In the end, Racraquin had 17 points to her name while Vargas contributed 13 caroms.
Now 6-0, the Cool Smashers are closing in on the top-seed for the semifinals. By then Valdez will be coming back to a much-improved squad as the assistant coach said, “Pagbalik ni Alyssa, masayang-masaya yun kasi yung team na babalikan niya, buong-buo na yung loob.”
Up next for them will be a BanKo-Perlas side which is in a must-win situation. “We really have to be prepared for that game. No matter what, ang importante, we keep on learning every match,” Almadro expressed.
On the other hand, UP fell short in coming through in its own must-win game. With a 1-5 record, they will not be making the next round.
Tots Carlos led them in the losing effort with 18 points.
This story was originally published on the ABS-CBN Sports website.
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