Tots Carlos and Jema Galanza came up with clutch plays in a mad dash to close the tightly contested extended fourth set that carried the grand slam-seeking Creamline past the pesky Choco Mucho, 15-25, 25-20, 25-20, 28-26, in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference at the Mall of Asia Arena Thursday night.
The duo brought order back in the chaotic endgame that saw the Cool Smashers waste five match point advantages and save one before turning back the Flying Titans to end their elimination round campaign with a 7-1 win-loss record at solo top spot.
Creamline, which went all-Filipino in the last two sets against a Choco Mucho squad missing the services of Uzbek-Azerbaijani import Odina Aliyeva due to health and safety protocols, built momentum heading into the round robin Final Four with back-to-back wins.
In front of a roaring 19,157-strong record crowd, the Cool Smashers displayed veteran composure coming back from a set down and weathering the late fourth frame storm from the Flying Titans.
“We struggled in the first set because we made some adjustments in our rotation that we only practiced yesterday. We knew we’ll be able to recover although we were forced to sit Yeliz (Basa) her shoulder injury. We don’t want to gamble that,” Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses said.
Carlos dropped a personal conference-high 25 points built on 18 spikes, six kill blocks and an ace. The 2022 Open and Invitational conferences Most Valuable Player added 16 digs and 18 excellent receptions for an all-around performance for the Cool Smashers.
Middle Celine Domingo fueled a spirited 12-4 run by Creamline in the fourth set to turn a 6-9 deficit into an 18-13 advantage.
A 1-2 play by setter Jia Morado-De Guzman pushed the Cool Smashers at match point, 24-20, but Choco Mucho refused to go down and countered with four straight points to force a deuce.
Galanza gave back the advantage to Creamline with a hit before Kat Tolentino pounded a hit that was followed by a setting miscue by De Guzman that suddenly put the Cool Smashers at 25-26 disadvantage.
Carlos fired back with consecutive kills as Galanza sealed the two-hour, 18-minute match with a service ace that landed on the right corner.
Domingo added 15 points while Alyssa Valdez added 14 markers and 15 digs for Creamline. Galanza scored five.
The Flying Titans dropped to 3-4 slate.
Tolentino led Choco Mucho with 24 points while Des Cheng posted 17 markers highlighted by seven aces in a lost cause.
The Flying Titans will face Cignal (3-3) in a crucial match that could determine their fate in the race for a Final Four seat.
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