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Smashers go for the jugular

April 7, 2022 Theodore P. Jurado 378 views

AS the PVL Open Conference championship series shifts to Ynares Center tonight, Creamline looks to settle some unfinished business at the Antipolo venue.

“We had a very heartbreaking experience in Ynares in 2019,” said Valdez after her club’s series-opening 25-16, 23-25, 25-12, 32-30 victory over PetroGazz that moved them on the cusp of winning a third Open Conference crown Wednesday night before 13,620 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Bannered by prolific imports Janisa Johnson and Wilma Salas with Jeanette Panaga as their main middle blocker back then, the Angels outlasted the Cool Smashers in three games in Antipolo to capture the Reinforced Conference title.

Creamline was able to avenge that loss later in the year by sweeping PetroGazz to complete a masterful 20-0 Open Conference campaign.

The Cool Smashers go for the jugular at 6 p.m., as Valdez and the rest of the team are looking to bring that heart-wrenching experience as extra motivation to wrap up the series.

“So, extra motivation, inspiration going in literally and figuratively in Ynares, lalong-lalo na finals ulit. So we will take that as an inspiration talaga coming sa Friday,” said Valdez.

“Sobrang grabe rin yung pagkatalo namin sa Reinforced Conference against Petro Gazz. But I guess we’ve learned from that as a team kasi halos kami-kami pa rin magkakasama from 2019 to 2022,” she added.

Thw Angels may find themselves missing a key player in Game 2 as open hitter Grethcel Soltones sustained an injury to her right knee in the fourth set in the opener.

Soltones hurt her knee while defending a Tots Carlos attack and had to be helped back to the bench. She underwent MRI yesterday morning to determine the extent of her injury.

“Medyo mas masama ‘yung kay Gretch,” PetroGazz coach Jerry Yee said.

Regardless of the diagnosis, Soltones’ return to full fitness in time for Game 2 will be doubtful, as the Angels hope to force a winner-take-all on Sunday at the same Antipolo venue.

“Kahit ano pa ‘yung [injury], mahirap humabol,” said Yee. “The following day, game na agad. Ewan ko lang.”

Aside from Soltones, PetroGazz also briefly lost veteran spiker Myla Pablo to cramps in the third set, though she returned to the game. Nicole Tiamzon, sent in to relieve Pablo, later tweaked her ankle but shook it off.

Yee is hoping that his other hitters will step up come Game 2 like Jonah Sabete, who was instrumental in keeping the Angels in the thick of things in the extended fourth set before losing.

“We have Jonah Sabete” said Yee. “Sana mag-step up si Jonah. Kita naman natin, medyo jittery ng kaunti, pero andito na eh.”

“So may tao naman tayo to replace ‘yung first stringers. We have tomorrow to train a little, review a little. So sige lang, laban lang,” he added.

Of course, the glue that kept Creamline together is Jia de Guzman, who tossed in 39 excellent sets and collected 15 digs, showing not just her well-known playmaking ability but also her defensive instincts.

De Guzman also.helped out in the defending the Cool Smashers’ net with three blocks.

“Si Jia naman talaga, bigyan mo ng pangit na receive or magandang receive, napapaganda niya eh,” Creamline mentor Sherwin Meneses said of his prized setter. “Credit din doon sa mga receiver, especially sa libero namin Kyla Atienza, medyo mga crucial ‘yung mga serve ng kabila eh.”

With PetroGazz setter Chie Saet and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas leading the charge, Valdez knows that their championship experience will be the key to keep their team in the hunt.

“One thing na every single time naman, it’s always hard to close out the game, lalo na yung kalaban mo, beterano. Kasi ang dami na nilang sitwasyon na nalaruan,” said Valdez.

“Kung sino ang kakapit, kung sino ang hindi bibitaw, I feel like yun ang makakakuha ng game on Friday. So kailangan talaga, we have to do our roles as a team and prepare well,” she added.

Games Friday

(Ynares Center)
3 p.m. – Cignal HD vs Choco Mucho (3rd Place)
6 p.m. – PetroGazz vs Creamline (Finals)

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