MANILA, Philippines — Missing most of their starters didn’t stop the Creamline Cool Smashers from asserting their mastery of sister team Choco Mucho Flying Titans to start their title defense in the 2023 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) All-Filipino Conference.
New heroes emerged for Creamline as Bernadeth Pons and Michele Gumabao carried the Cool Smashers to their ninth straight win against the Flying Titans, with a 25-18, 25-16, 24-26, 25-21 victory, in front of 14,014 fans on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Three-time Most Valuable Players Alyssa Valdez and Tots Carlos only saw limited action for Creamline while libero Kyla Atienza sat out due to injury and middle blocker Ced Domingo due to a tooth extraction.
Kyle Negrito also shone in her first start as the Cool Smashers’ main playmaker this season with 23 excellent sets on top of three points including two aces, filling in for eight-time best setter Jia De Guzman, who will play for the Denso Airybees in Japan V.League starting next week.
“We’re happy because we won our first game. We’re grateful the breaks of the game went to us,” said Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses in Filipino. “Choco Mucho didn’t give up but my players were able to pull through.”
Breakout game for Pons
Pons played her best PVL game yet, showing the way with 22 points, 11 digs, and seven excellent receptions to get the better of her longtime Philippine beach volleyball teammate Sisi Rondina, who led Choco Mucho with 21 points in their first PVL showdown.
Gumabao delivered 20 points including two aces. Jema Galanza had 11 points and 15 digs, while Jeanette Panaga added nine markers.
“I think that’s what makes our team different this conference, it’s very unpredictable. We don’t know who’s going to play because everyone deserves a spot on the team,” said Valdez after her teammates took charge. “I think that’s the beauty of the Cool Smashers, everyone’s really stepping up, whoever coach decides to play. So, I guess that’s a good problem for coach Sherwin and hopefully it becomes an advantage n this conference.”
Valdez, who only played limited action in the last two sets and finished with four points, sparked the Cool Smashers’ pull away in the fourth with a 22-17 spread capped by Pons’ block on Caitlin Viray.
Rondina and Des Cheng trimmed it down to a three-point deficit, 23-20, but Pons nailed an attack on Rondina to reach match point, 24-20, before Risa Sato scored the game-winning drop.
Valdez first checked in the third when Creamline 20-17 and scored right away before Pons tied the set at 23-all and reached match point after Carlos’ kill broke the wall of Choco Mucho, 24-23. Cheng came to the rescue to force a deuce followed by Rondina and Aduke Ogunsanya’s back-to-back blocks to force another set.
Besides Rondina, Choco Mucho banked on Viray, who contributed 12 points and 15 digs. Cheng and Cherry Nunag had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Libero Thang Ponce tallied 23 digs and 17 excellent receptions only for the Flying Titans to remain winless against the Cool Smashers since joining the leeague in 2019.
Coach Sherwin Meneses, Alyssa Valdez, Kyle Negrito, and Bernadeth Pons after Creamline’s big win over Choco Mucho. #PVL2023
Posted by Inquirer Sports on Sunday, October 15, 2023