After two long months of intense volleyball, the teams vying for the Premiere Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference 2018 are now down to two, as Creamline and Ateneo-Motolite booked outright Finals berth last weekend.
Finishing the double round robin eliminations strong, the Cool Smashers and the Lady Eagles went down on separate paths, overcame different roadblocks, and met at the end both by punching their respective tickets to the championship round.
Creamline swept Petrogazz and earned their second straight Finals appearance, while the Ateneo-Motolite completed a come-from-behind feat to edge BanKo in the best-of-three semifinals. And so it was a date.
Winning the Reinforced Conference, the Cool Smashers are hungry for another title after getting their first taste of a PVL championship earlier this year. Another trophy will solidify them as the league’s top club with Pocari struggling, BaliPure skipping the tournament and PayMaya transferring to the other league.
The Lady Eagles, meanwhile, are looking to end their title drought both in UAAP and PVL. Before the two squads square off on Wednesday, check out these game analyses of their preliminary round match-ups:
First round: Creamline swept Ateneo-Motolite
Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado and coach Tai Bundit schooled the young Ateneo-Motolite as Creamline essayed a 25-23, 25-17, 25-14 in their first meeting held in Bulacan. After the tight first set, the Cool Smashers went full throttle in the next two, showing the Lady Eagles how it’s done. The former Ateneo ace spiker Valdez gave the Oliver Almadro-mentored squad’s rookies Vanessa Gandler and Samantha Fanger pointers, dropping game-high 19 markers laced with 11 digs to lead Creamline. Gandler and Fanger tallied 10 and nine hits, respectively, on a losing effort.
Morado also put on a setting clinic to her heir in Ateneo Deanna Wong. The UAAP 77 Best Setter dished out 28 excellent sets compared to Wong’s 11. While their net defense are at par, Creamline performed better in offense, 44 to 33, while attacking the Ateneo-Motolite’s reception with eight aces compared to three. With their first pass in disarray, the Lady Eagles also struggled in their floor defense, tallying less than half of the Cool Smashers’ 45 digs, making it hard for Wong to orchestrate their offense.
Second round: Ateneo-Motolite nipped Creamline
A week later, it was Ateneo-Motolite’s turn to beat Creamline, eking out a hard-fought 25-18, 25-20, 15-25, 23-25, 15-12 victory in front of Valdez’ hometown crowd in Batangas. With their backs against the wall, the Cool Smashers rallied behind Valdez to come back from a two-set deficit and force a decider. The Lady Eagles avoided a meltdown, going back to work in the rubber set and using Creamline’s errors to their advantage. Kat Tolentino, who missed the first match, led the flight for the Lady Eagles, finishing with team-high 22 points off 18 kills, three blocks and an ace.
Skipper Bea de Leon added 15 hits as Ateneo-Motolite spoiled Valdez stellar 32-point eruption. Wong recovered from her dismal output, registering 38 excellent sets while Morado still emerged as the better playmaker with 49 excellent sets. The Cool Smashers had more attacks, 63 to 48, but its whooping 37 errors compared to the Lady Eagles’ 26 doomed their chance for a come-from-behind win.