MANILA, Philippines — Kurashiki Ablaze gave defending champion Creamline a preview of what they can do in the 2023 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference final as the Japanese ended the Cool Smashers’ unbeaten streak with a 25-20, 25-21, 18-25, 25-14 victory on Friday at Philsports Arena.
Asaka Tamaru continued to show the way for Kurashiki with 19 points and 11 excellent receptions, completing a five-game sweep in the semifinal round and snapping the Cool Smashers’ seven-game winning streak ahead of their winner-take-all championship match on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
“We still have a weak point that we need to work on before the final. I will continue to step up in the championship game on Sunday,” said Tamaru through an interpreter.
Saki Tanabe also stepped up with 15 points including two blocks, while Yukino Yano delivered the finishing blows in the fourth set and tallied 13 points, 13 receptions, and 12 digs to help out libero Kaoru Takahashi, who had 16 digs and 13 receptions.
“Creamline is a strong offensive team so I just focused on receiving,” said libero Takahashi.
After dropping the third set, the Ablaze erased an 11-12 deficit in the fourth by scoring 10 straight points capped by Yano’s hit and never looked back to seal the win.
“I’m happy to get this win over the defending champions. But we still have a final game, so we look forward to the next challenge,” said Kurashiki coach Hideo Suzuki.
Jema Galanza led Creamline with 12 points and 11 receptions. Tots Carlos had 10 points, while Filipino-Japanese Risa Sato shone as a starter with 10 points including three blocks.
Alyssa Valdez sat out midway third as her left knee was iced and only finished with seven points as they suffered their first defeat of the conference.
Creamline tries to repeat its championship campaign last year when it lost its semis game to KingWhale Taipei but bounced back in the one-game final to rule the midseason tournament.
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