Kurashiki handed Creamline its first loss, 25-20, 25-21, 18-25, 25-14, to gain a much-needed mental edge ahead of their grand final clash on Sunday in the 2023 Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference, Friday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
The Ablaze proved that their 4-0 start in the semifinals was no fluke, bringing down the defending champions by using a 10-to-nothing blast in the fourth set that ultimately handed the Cool Smashers their first defeat after eight consecutive games of dominance.
Asaka Tamaru, Kurashiki’s ever-consistent hitter, was again at the forefront of the team’s attack with a game-high 19 points and 11 excellent digs for the 5-0 Ablaze.
Saki Tanabe provided the much-needed firepower and finished with 15 points, while Yukino Yano flaunted her all-around game with 13 points, 13 excellent receptions, and 12 excellent digs in the contest.
“We are very happy that we won again, especially because our opponent was the defending champion. But we still have the finals ahead, so we’ll move on to the next challenge,” said Kurashiki head coach Hideo Suzuki through an interpreter.
“We really enjoyed the game, even though there were many cheering for Creamline. I truly feel that Filipinos love volleyball. That’s the strong impression I have,” he added.
After missing the chance to close out the Rebisco-backed squad in the third frame, the Ablaze went on a fiery 10-0 blast late in the fourth set highlighted by three powerful attacks from Tanabe which transformed an 11-12 disadvantage to a wide 21-12 gap.
Kurashiki never looked back from there and left the Cool Smashers in flames en route to their fifth consecutive victory in the semifinals.
Jema Galanza paced Creamline with 12 points and 11 excellent receptions while Tots Carlos and Alyssa Valdez added 10 points apiece in the loss. Valdez, whose left knee was being iced during the third, did not play in the fourth set.
The Cool Smashers capped off the round-robin semis with a 4-1 win-loss record.