Cool Smashers, HD Spikers eye PVL Open semis

CIGNAL HD and Creamline take the first of two chances to get to the Final Four but they sure won’t take any chances as they go for the clinchers against BaliPure and Chery Tiggo, respectively, in Monday’s start of the quarterfinal round of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference.

But it won’t be easy as the Purest Water Defenders and the Crossovers mount a kind of challenge they missed putting up in the preliminaries, guaranteeing a pair of fierce duels in the stretch run of the compressed tournament marking the second pro season of the country’s premier volley league.

For topping their respective sides, Cignal and Creamline need only to win once to advance.

What makes the league’s resumption after a much-deserved three-day break doubly interesting is that it will be staged back at its home—at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan where these four teams will be playing before an expected big crowd for the first time since Creamline beat Petro Gazz and completed a rare PVL Open sweep in 2019.

Choco Mucho and Petro Gazz, the other teams with twice-to-beat perks, shoot for the semifinals on Tuesday against PLDT and F2 Logistics, respectively.

Fan engagement will surely play a big role for these contending teams, foremost of which is the inspiration they would generate, not to mention the constant cheers that motivate the teams and players.

The HD Spikers should have more of that after emerging as the surprise team in the prelims grind that saw them post one big win after another on their way to sweeping the tough Group A of the two-division tournament organized by Sports Vision.

And coach Shaq delos Santos expects more of the same from his wards headed by Rachel Anne Daquis, whose experience and leadership have helped the team buck the odds that had them repulsing F2 Logistics, Choco Mucho and Chery Tiggo before toppling Army Black Mamba.

Ces Molina is expected to be back in top shape after sustaining a slight ankle injury recently, along with Ria Meneses, Angeli Araneta, Roselyn Doria, Genn Layug, Jerrili Malabanan and playmaker Gel Cayuna.

Still, they expect a tough outing in their 3 p.m. match against the Water Defenders, who will be pinning their hopes on Janine Marciano, Jhoana Maraguinot, Rapril Aguilar, Marian Buitre, Bernadette Flora and Sat Espiritu to essay a pair of wins to crash into the next round.

The 6 p.m. rematch of last year’s title protagonists is expected to provide more fireworks although the Cool Smashers have downplayed the revenge angle but would want to focus more on the task at hand—a spot in the semifinals.

Matches are also aired live on One Sports and One Sports Plus and on social media platforms Cignal Play, Gigaplay, KUMU and pvl.ph.

Alyssa Valdez, Jema Galanza, Risa Sato and Tots Carlos are raring to get going as they seek to step up their drive along with ace setter Jia De Guzman along with Jeanette Panaga, Pau Soriano, Celine Domingo and Rose Vargas.

Reeling from the absence of top scorer Jaja Santiago, the Crossovers, who stunned the highly fancied Cool Smashers to snare the Open diadem under bubble setup in Ilocos Norte last August, hope to make do with what they have and bank on their big fighting heart again behind the power-hitting Mylene Paat, Dindin Manabat, Maika Ortiz, Joy Doromal, Arriane Layug, EJ Laure, Shaya Adorador, Justine Dorog and playmaker Jasmine Nabor.