ANTIPOLO - Jema Galanza took some of the spotlight from Tots Carlos' crowning night, keying a decisive Creamline run in the fourth set as the Cool Smashers pounded out a 25-18, 15-25, 25-23, 25-16 victory over the Petro Gazz Angels to nail the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference crown before a jampacked crowd at the Ynares Center here, Friday evening.
Galanza sprayed three key points in varying fashions, helping Creamline break away from a tight 10-9 game and into a 17-11 lead then Alyssa Valdez did what she does best, closing out their rivals with her vaunted power blasts and an ace before Jia de Guzman and Celine Domingo capped their romp on a quick play.
As De Guzman fell on the floor and the Cool Smashers whooped it up before a raucous crowd of over 7,000, confetti rained down the court, marking the return of the Cool Smashers to the volley throne at the very venue where they left with heads bowed after falling to the Angels in the 2019 Reinforced Conference finals.
"It's worth all the sacrifices after we came up short the first time out," said Galanza, referring to their setback to the Chery TIggo Crossovers in the league's pro inaugurals in Ilocos Norte last August where they won the series opener but dropped the next two.
Galanza finished with 17 points, all on attacks.
"It's all mental toughness and the strategies that we made," said Valdez, whose own three-point binge late in the frame put the team at match point. She went on to bag the Finals MVP honors, her first in the PVL era, following a top-scoring 20-point effort she laced with three blocks.
The one-hour, 41-minute victory thus completed the crowd favorites' eight-game sweep of the tournament, including a three-game romp in the group prelims, a lopsided win over PLDT in the quarters and a two-game domination of sister team Choco Mucho in the Final Four.
They needed four sets and a lot of patience and breaks before squeezing out a 25-16, 23-25, 25-12, 32-30 victory over the plucky Angels in Game One of the best-of-three finals at the SM MOA Arena in Pasay last Wednesday.
The title sweep likewise made up for the team's failed bid to become the first winner of the league's pro tournament. But they toughened up during the off-season, keeping the team intact while adding a player or two to further bolster their drive in the tournament that had to be compacted into a four-week tourney to give way for the national team's preparation for next month's Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, the core of which are mainstays of the league.
The championship was Creamline's fourth in six straight finals appearances, including three in the league's centerpiece event.
But it wasn't all offense for the Cool Smashers, who came through with two blocks off Nicole Tiamzon to preserve their commanding lead in the clutch with Domingo producing five blocks.