By Rodolfo Dacleson II


SAN JUAN — Last year's runners-up Creamline is one win away from returning to the Promised Land.

This is after the Cool Smashers overcame the gusty Choco Mucho Flying Titans in four sets, 25-18, 17-25, 25-19, 25-11, to draw first blood in their best-of-three semifinal clash in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference on Friday, here in the FilOil Flying V Arena.

Tots Carlos paced the balanced scoring of the Sherwin Meneses-mentored squad with 26 points from 21 kills, four aces, and one block to gain the upperhand in the highly-anticipated showdown in front of a sellout crowd. 

Alyssa Valdez uncorked 17 of her own off 13 hits and a pair of blocks and aces while Celine Domingo added 11 points and Jema Galanza and Jeanette Panaga delivered 10 apiece for Creamline. 

The two-time PVL Open Conference titlist already avenged their 2021 finals loss after eliminating eventual champion Cherry Tiggo, helping them build momentum coming into this match. 

Indeed, that's the drive the fans saw from Creamline since the get-go. 

Carlos led the offensive charge for the Cool Smashers in the first set, firing eight spikes as CCS' scattered attacking proved to be tough for the Flying Titans to stop. 

Errors then plagued Creamline in the following set and Oliver Almadro-coached squad took advantage to tie things up. 

After the first technical timeout, the Cool Smashers continued dictating the tempo from there in the third frame to get the 2-1 set lead as the Kat Tolentino-reliant Flying Titans struggled with their point production. 

The Cool Smashers didn't let the decider from happening as Valdez and company went amok in the fourth en route to the dominant set victory capped by Carlos' game-clinching service bomb.

Tolentino was the lone double-digit scorer for Choco Mucho with 13 points—11 attacks and two blocks— but ended futile as she got limited support. 

Meanwhile, Cignal, the same as Creamline, remained unblemished in the tournament after sweeping pesky PetroGazz, 25-21, 25-23, 25-23. 

Ria Meneses tallied 14 points, Rachel Ann Daquis struck 11, Ces Molina and Roselyn Doria scored 10 each, and the HD Spikers grabbed the 1-0 in their semis tussle versus the Angels. 

Aiza Maizo-Pontillas led the way for PetroGazz with 14 markers in a losing effort. 

Creamline and Cignal will look to set the date of their finals encounter on Sunday, April 3, as PVL moves to SM Mall of Asia Arena to accommodate more fans. 

Edited by Jostle Pilayre