MANILA, Philippines—Cignal got the better of Creamline in a back-and-forth first three sets before dominating in the fourth to fashion out a 23-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-18 victory and inch closer to its first finals appearance in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tai Bierria continued to be a spark off the bench for Cignal with 21 points off 17 spikes, three blocks, and an ace as the HD Spikers took a 2-0 lead in the semifinal round.
“I just try to go out there and do my thing. I think having a team like a team that I have makes it really easy to do my job, you know what I mean? Where I mess up, they pick me up,” said Bierria, who has been coming off the bench in the latter part of elimination. “My weaknesses are their strengths. So my performance, really, is an indication of the teamwork that we have and the chemistry that we all share.”
Cignal goes for a semis sweep and a finals berth against Petro Gazz on Tuesday at Philsports Arena in Pasig.
After the HD Spikers fell short in their comeback bid in the first set, both teams continued to play neck-and-neck in the second and third sets with Bierria providing the last two points of both frames to lead her team to a 2-1 match advantage.
Bierria and the locals took full control of the fourth set, where they led as many as eight, 20-12, and never looked back to put a dent in Creamline’s Grand Slam bid as it dropped to a 1-1 record.
Ria Meneses also came up big for Cignal with 11 points, including the last two spikes in the fourth set. Angeli Araneta sustained her fine play with 10 points, while Ces Molina and Rose Doria added eight and seven markers, respectively.
Cignal coach Shaq Delos Santos, who is seeking to get over the hump after back-to-back bronze finishes in the past two tournaments, relished their big win over powerhouse Creamline.
“We’re happy with this win because we all know that Creamline is not an easy team to beat. You really have to work hard and give them high respect. I’m proud of our team from coaches to players because this is the first time to beat Creamline in the semifinals,” said Delos Santos in Filipino. “This is a big opportunity for us to be better for our next game.”
“We have to do extra workouts still and study Petro Gazz. This win doesn’t mean that we have to be complacent. We have to stay all out because we’re just starting,” he added.
Creamline dominated Cignal in attacking, 61-49, but it gave up 33 errors in the match, falling to a must-win situation against Chery Tiggo on Tuesday to book its eighth straight finals appearance.
The Cool Smashers were two points away from taking a two-set lead after Alyssa Valdez’s attack, 23-22, but service specialist Fille Cayetano committed a costly service error that tied the frame before Bierria nailed back-to-back points to equalize the match to one set apiece.
Yeliz Basa also brought Creamline at set point in the third but another service error from Jeanette Panaga allowed a deuce anew with Bierria, once again, putting on the finishing touches.
Valdez powered the Cool Smashers with 20 points off 17 attacks and three aces on top of 22 digs. Turkish spiker Basa had 17 points, Jema Galanza chipped in 13 points and 12 receptions, and Jeanette Panaga added 10 markers.
Jia De Guzman made 22 excellent sets on top of two blocks but Creamline suffered its second loss of the conference and second defeat to Cignal since the elimination round of the Invitationals.