Alyssa Valdez loved every moment of the fire and desire Black Mamba-Army brought inside the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center on Wednesday, but was not about to let Creamline be at the wrong end of the scorecard in the first five-setter of the 2021 PVL Open Conference.
Kept in check for the most part, Valdez broke loose when it mattered most, hammering down hits from the wings and then from the middle to tow the Cool Smashers past Army in a thriller, 20-25, 25-15, 25-27, 25-19, and 15-13, to remain undefeated in their title defense.
"The Phenom," as well as Michelle Gumabao, was far from her usual standards, and Creamline found itself under siege by a veteran Black Mamba side which sent a statement right away in taking the first set.
Behind new player Tots Carlos, however, the Cool Smashers battled back to seize Set 2 before the two teams traded wins in the next two periods.
Come the fifth and final frame, Army looked to be on the verge of a monumental upset, just four points away from a five-set win only to see the defending champions ring off a 9-3 run to snatch away a 13-12 lead.
"Of course, we were so happy when we were able to come back. Our mindset was just to go point-by-point. Every point counted in that fifth set," expressed Valdez in Filipino after the match that went two hours and 10 minutes.
After Balse tied the tally, Kyle Negrito then went to their ultimate weapon, setting up a thunderous spike from their skipper that brought Creamline to match point. Not long after, she then met a Black Mamba try at the net, closing the door on them once and for all.
"Alyssa gave us crucial points, so most definitely, she made up for her early struggles," shared acting head coach Sherwin Meneses, also in Filipino, referring to Valdez who wound up with 20 points, all but four from spikes.
Carlos top-scored for the Cool Smashers with 26 points, including 24 kills and two blocks, while Risa Sato chipped in 13 markers. Gumabao, two games off of a 24-point outing, had 13 in their third win in three tries.
Without a doubt, however, the tournament favorites were given a run for their money by Black Mamba-Army, whose gallant stand was fronted by Jovelyn Gonzaga's 18 points while Royse Tubino also chimed in eight markers.
"We were this close. We were this close, but we felt the fatigue of our veterans in the endgame," expressed coach Kungfu Reyes, proud despite their second setback in three games. "I just want to commend our players aged 30-up, our titas of Manila. At least, we gave them (Creamline) a good fight," he added, giving props to the likes of Ging Balse-Pabayo (eight points), libero Angela Nunag, and service specialist Nene Bautista.