According to script, the Premier Volleyball League holds a finale everyone saw coming.
Deemed as the top two teams in the league, the Creamline Cool Smashers and the Petro Gazz Angels will battle it out in the championship round of the 2019 PVL Reinforced Conference.
Creamline and Petro Gazz swept their semifinal assignments to set their first meeting in the finals. As of now, the title showdown remains unpredictable as both teams pulled one over the other, with Petro Gazz emerging victorious in the first round and Creamline seeking revenge in the second round.
Before their gold medal clash tomorrow, FOX Sports PH revisits the elimination round performances of both teams to see where they stand.
FIRST ROUND STUNNER
In the opening weekend of the Reinforced Conference, the Angels established themselves as powerhouses after a stunning straight-set victory over the Cool Smashers. In the tightly contested game, Petro Gazz maintained poise and answered all of Creamline’s challenges.
This game became the introduction of Petro Gazz’s power duo Wilma Salas and Janisa Johnson who led the charge with 20 and 16 points respectively. It might be the unfamiliarity of the Cool Smashers with the Angels’ guest players, especially the hard-hitting Salas, that cost them.
The defending champions, meanwhile, saw no one scoring in double digits, with team captain Alyssa Valdez only scoring five points after being brought out of the game due to an injury. Venezuelan player Aleoscar Blanco led the team with nine points.
This match also turned out to be Chinese head coach Li Huanning’s first and last game for Creamline who seemed to struggle with the new system. After their loss, the team brought back their original head coach Tai Bundit, who led the squad to nine consecutive wins in the elimination round.
SECOND ROUND VENGEANCE
The Cool Smashers ultimately refused to leave their first round loss unavenged as they dismantled the Angels in four sets in their second round meeting. With another close game especially in the fourth set, it was the Cool Smashers who showed more hunger to win, tying their rivalry one game apiece.
Thai reinforcement Kuttika Kaewpin registered 18 points and a triple-double performance to lead her team, while Valdez rebounded from her previous performance against the Angels with 16 points.
Meanwhile, the Salas-Johnson duo delivered anew for Petro Gazz with 23 and 22 points respectively, with the latter recording a triple-double performance.
SUPPORTING CAST NEEDED
In order to clinch their first franchise championship in the PVL, the Angels need the local players to contribute more points, as their offensive arsenal is heavily anchored around their two foreign reinforcements.
Salas and Johnson emerged as the second and fourth best scorers of the league after the elimination round, registering 212 and 183 points respectively. To further emphasize the scoring gap, Petro Gazz’s next two top scorers Jeanette Panaga and Cherry Nunag have only scored 61 points each.
In contrast, Creamline has relatively displayed a more balanced scoring effort with both local players and foreign reinforcements carrying the load. Kaewpin finished as the top scorer for the Cool Smashers after the elimination round, finishing fifth in the league with 154 points. Valdez, meanwhile, is in tenth place with 120 points, followed by Blanco and Michele Gumabao who scored 104 and 54, respectively.
With the Cool Smashers also benefiting from the contributions of their bench players, it is safe to say that their supporting cast will be the most crucial cog in their quest to defend their title and establish a three-peat feat in the league.
CRUCIAL NET DEFENSE
While the blocking department hasn’t exactly been an area of dominance for both teams, it is the scoring skill that would make the biggest difference in the title series considering that both Petro Gazz and Creamline are heavily offensive-minded teams.
The Angels and the Cool Smashers dominated the spiking department at the end of the elimination round, placing first and second, respectively. Salas and Johnson have led the attacking realm, finishing as the top two best spikers with 47 and 46.22 percent spiking efficiency. Meanwhile, Kaewpin and Valdez placed third and sixth with 41.12 and 35.77 percent.
Given their offensive prowess, it is premium for both teams to step up in their net defense in order to stop or slow down as many attacks as possible. In comparison, Petro Gazz performed better than Creamline in blocking, with the former registering 75 kill blocks and averaging 2.34 per set and the latter with 51 kill blocks and averaging 1.5 per set.
ALL ABOUT THE FLOOR DEFENSE
In this title series where both teams show aggression both from the attack line and the service zone, it is imperative that their coverage be up to par. Both Creamline and Petro Gazz have two talented setters in Jia Morado and Djanel Cheng–their steady playmaking would only work with steady floor defense.
Both teams show prowess in digging—three players for each team placed in the top ten in the said department after the elimination round, with Johnson, Salas, and libero Cienne Cruz for Petro Gazz and Kaewpin, Valdez, and libero Kyla Atienza for Creamline.
As a team, the Cool Smashers performed slightly better with 14 average successful digs per set compared to the Angels’ 12.5 percent. Both teams benefited from their digging prowess with better transitions especially in long rallies.
In terms of reception, Petro Gazz has the skill wrapped around their fingers as they lead the competition with 43.13 percent efficiency. Salas, Johnson, and Cruz continue to deliver settable first balls for their squad.
In contrast, it is in the receiving department where the defending champions struggle the most. They place fourth in the league with 31.98 percent efficiency—only Kaewpin ended up in the top ten best receivers of the tournament, finishing as the top receiver with 49.34 percent.
For Petro Gazz to end up victorious in the title showdown, they need to remain steadfast in their floor defense. Meanwhile, it is a challenge for Creamline, especially for liberos Atienza and Melissa Gohing, to deliver better numbers in the final stretch of the season.
BACK TO ZERO
At the end of the day, elimination round statistics would no longer matter going into the championship round. It is a whole new ball game, with both teams having the opportunity to perform better and bigger to take home the prize.
With their very first finals meeting in the league, both teams have different plans—on one hand, the Cool Smashers look to continue their dominance and establish a three-peat, while the Angels aim to make history and clinch their first title in the league.
Both teams look to draw first blood in Game One of the best-of-three title series starting tomorrow at the Filoil Flying V Center.