PVL: Kurashiki finds relief after surviving expected challenge from Creamline
MANILA, Philippines—The Kurashiki Ablaze, the third division Japanese team, were relieved and honored to overcome the star-studded and winningest Premier Volleyball League (PVL) club, the Creamline Cool Smashers, to rule the 2023 Invitational Conference on Sunday at Philsports Arena.
Thanks to Asaka Tamaru’s championship-clinching ace that dethroned Creamline in a nail-biting five sets, 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 20-25, 15-13, and completed their six-game sweep of the midseason tournament.
Tamaru, who erupted for 29 points, powered her team to gain a 2-1 set lead and inch closer to the title but Creamline never wavered as Tots Carlos willed them back to force a decider and take a 13-12 lead. However, Saki Tanabe came to the rescue with two consecutive clutch attacks to reach match point, 14-13,
In front of 8,223 fans, Tamaru served the ball with nerves of steel that successfully landed on the Cool Smashers’ line, triggering a wild celebration from the Japanese.
The celebration of Kurashiki was halted after Creamline called for a challenge, which clearly showed that Tamaru’s serve went down the line as the Ablaze prevailed after a thrilling two-hour and 20-minute match and became the first overseas club to conquer the PVL.
“I served it with courage and aggression. I can’t be rattled [in that crucial moment],” said Tamaru through a translator. “Actually, my serve wasn’t that good so I thought our final point would come from a spike. But I was lucky [I got an ace].”
Kurashiki coach Hideo Suzuki knew that Creamline will push them to their limits, two days after beating the Cool Smashers in their first encounter during the semifinal round.
“Last game, Creamline already put up a good fight. I knew that it will reach five sets with the offensive and defensive system of Creamline. I just told them not to stop and not to give up on every ball,” he said.
Besides Tamaru winning the 1st Best Outside Hitter and emerging as the hero of the final game, setter Kyoka Ohshima was named Finals MVP and lauded the game of her rival Jia De Guzman.
“She is really good. Although I was trying to learn her game, it’s really hard to read her plays,” said Ohshima, who had 19 excellent sets and five points against De Guzman’s 33 excellent sets and five markers.
Ohshima became the second setter to win the Finals MVP in the PVL, joining De Guzman, who won four.
Kurashiki is grateful for its PVL experience, where Akane Hiraoka, Yukino Nano, Miho Kawamura, Saki Tanabe, and libero Kaoru Takahashi also contributed to their title run, which boosted their morale ahead of their league in Japan in November.
The Ablaze promised to come back “100 percent” according to Suzuki if they got invited again.