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Creamline survives Farm Fresh scare

Creamline faced a challenging start to its title-retention campaign, thwarting a vastly improved Farm Fresh side, 34-36, 25-23, 25-22, 25-15, in a thrilling encounter in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference elims at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Saturday night.

The Cool Smashers blew 11 straight set points in a marathon first set skirmish as the Foxies, displaying significant improvement from their previous campaign, capitalized on Creamline’s miscues and sealed the set with an Alyssa Bertolano ace.

Despite the setback, the defending champions regrouped and claimed the next three sets, hacking out close victories in the second and third before re-asserting their might in the fourth.

“Farm Fresh is a young team and the Foxies played a good game all throughout,” said Pangs Panaga in Pilipino. “We had miscommunications but we went back to basics in the succeeding sets and did what we have been doing in training.”

The top middle finished with 12 points, including five blocks, and bagged the game’s top honors.

Tots Carlos led the charge for the Cool Smashers with 19 points, while Jema Galanza came through with 15 points and Alyssa Valdez and Michele Gumabao each had nine markers.

Lefty Trisha Tubu matched Carlos’ 19-point output while Kate Santiago fired 11 points and Rizza Cruz and Chinnie Arroyo finished with eight points apiece for the Foxies, who also drew a combined 12-point effort from Bertolano and Caitlin Viray.

Despite its firepower, Creamline hardly beat Farm Fresh in spikes, 62-57, but the Cool Smashers, behind Panaga, dominated the net, finishing with 11 blocks against the Foxies’ three.

The Foxies, who finished 10th in a 12-team field in the previous AFC, staged a big comeback in the opening set, rallying from three points down and saving an unprecedented 11 set points.

The turning point came when the Foxies reached match point for the first time at 35-34, capitalizing on a Creamline double-contact miscue. Seizing the rare opportunity, Bertolano delivered a decisive ace to clinch the set in 45 minutes, highlighting the Foxies’ unwavering stand in a duel filled with powerful hits, fierce exchanges and breathtaking saves.

While Creamline contributed to Farm Fresh’s surprising first set win with service miscues and attack errors, the Foxies demonstrated notable character and poise throughout the challenging stretch.

Players like Trisha Tubud, Chinnie Arroyo and Bertolano emerged as key contributors, providing firepower, while the rest, including Angelica Legacion, anchored their net and floor defense.

Farm Fresh continued to mount late rallies in the next two sets, showing their ability to overcome adversity with skill and determination. But this time, Creamline maintained grace under pressure to secure the victory. The Cool Smashers leveled on a contested Pons baseline hit and took a 2-1 lead on a Panaga quick attack.

Creamlime, which swept its way to a 15-game romp to claim a second AFC championship last year, asserted control in the fourth set, winning eight of the first 11 points in the fourth set and stayed in control the rest of the way to carve the two-hour, nine-minute victory.

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