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By Joey Villar
CIGNAL HD and Creamline seek outright semifinal entry as they clash with Bali Pure and Chery Tiggo, respectively, on Monday in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference that has been opened to the public for the first time in three years at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
Both the HD Spikers and Cool Smashers swept their respective groups with the former going 4-0 in Pool A and the latter 3-0 in Pool B to go into the quarterfinals with the crucial twice-to-beat edge.
All eyes though are expected to focus on Cignal HD, which has been playing the game of their lives after they swept what everybody considered as the Group of Death with big wins over serious contenders Choco Mucho, F2 Logistics and Chery Tiggo — the defending titlist.
The HD Spikers will come in as heavy favorites in their 3 p.m. showdown with the Purest Water Defenders, who lost all their three outings in Pool B.
But Cignal HD coach Shaq delos Santos stressed there is no room for complacency in the playoff round.
“We need to triple our efforts and we can’t relax in the quarterfinals. If we can do it in one game, better but we’re expecting it to be tough,” said Mr. Delos Santos, whose charges have already improved on their 10th and last place finish in the Bacarra, Ilocos Norte bubble a year ago.
Creamline likewise will shoot for the jugular and settle an old score with last season’s conqueror Chery Tiggo when they clash at 6 p.m.
The Cool Smashers came a set away from clinching the 2021 crown when they went 2-1 set up in the deciding Game Three but imploded in the final two sets when the Crossovers fought back to snatch the title.
Tots Carlos and Jema Galanza have been doing the heavy lifting mostly for Creamline in the group stages while skipper Alyssa Valdez is groping for form.
Ms. Carlos, in fact, unleashed a 28-point masterpiece while Ms. Galanza erupted for 18 hits in a 25-23, 23-25, 25-19-, 23-25, 15-10 win over Petro Gazz on Wednesday.
Ms. Valdez, meanwhile, struggled but sneaked in 17 points.
Expect Ms. Valdez though to unleash her wrath against a Chery Tiggo team that denied the franchise their fourth crown.