Cignal’s Tai Bierria during the PVL Reinforced Conference semifinals against Creamline. PVL PHOTO
An import coming off the bench may look awkward for some teams in the PVL Reinforced Conference—for every team but Cignal, it seems.
Tai Bierria took the floor late in the first set and powered the HD Spikers on Sunday to a 23-25, 25-23, 28-26, 25-18 upset of Grand Slam-seeking Creamline at Smart Araneta Coliseum that shoved Cignal to within another win of a semifinal round sweep and a shot at the season-closing title.
“I just try to go out there and do my thing. I think having a team like the team that I have makes it really easy to do my job, you know what I mean? Where I mess up, they pick me up,” said Bierria, the 25-year-old who started playing as a reserve at the latter half of the elimination round where the magic started happening for Cignal.
“My weaknesses are their strengths. So my performance, really, is an indication of the teamwork that we have and the chemistry that we all share.”
Petro Gazz booted Chery Tiggo out of Finals contention after a 25-15, 25-17, 25-13 win in the second game that also kept the Angels on track to defending their title.
The Angels banked on the troika of Lindsey Vander Weide, Myla Pablo and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas to improve to a 1-1 record, tying the Cool Smashers.
Vander Weide unleashed a game-high 18 points, firing 14 attacks in the win that eliminated the Crossovers in just 80 minutes.
Pablo poured in 15 points built on 11 spikes, while Pontillas fired five of the team’s 10 aces to finish with 11 points as the Angels geared up well for their clash with the unbeaten HD Spikers at PhilSports Arena.
The HD Spikers have so far brought down the top two teams after the eliminations, with their first win coming at the expense of Chery Tiggo.
They next clash with the Petro Gazz Angels on Tuesday, needing a win to avoid any complications of a playoff for a title series berth and a shot at a championship Cignal hasn’t won in a rich history of participation.
“Creamline is a great team, with so many fans. But for us to be able to do it, it’s great in our confidence. It showed in our character, our ability to keep getting better,” said Bierria.
“We’re happy with this win because we all know that Creamline is not an easy team to beat. You really have to work hard and give them high respect,” Cignal coach Shaq delos Santos said in Filipino. “I’m proud of our team, from the coaches to players, because this is the first time to beat Creamline in the semifinals.
“This is a big opportunity for us to be better for our next game,” he said.
Alyssa Valdez blasted in 17 attacks for 20 points, while import Yeliz Basa added 17 and Jema Galanza and Pangs Panaga finished with 13 and 10 points, respectively, in losing efforts for the Cool Smashers, who lost for just the second time here.
Cignal was the last team to make it out of the elimination round.
Creamline unloaded 61 attack points against Cignal’s 49, but the HD Spikers had 12 blocks, three more than their rivals.
It was actually a toss-up in the pivotal third as Cignal battled back from a wobbly start to force a tie at 12. They slugged it out through 11 more deadlocks marked by hard hits and blocking, but the HD Spikers displayed grace under pressure as Bierria scored on a power tip to force another tie at 26.
She led her team in the last three sets and was in sync with the Cignal locals, both in offense and defense, while sneaking in a number of smart plays with her drop shots and power tips.
Angeli Araneta likewise came through with a 10-point game as stalwarts Ces Molina, Roselyn Doria and Rachel Anne Daquis also contributed with a combined 20 points in the two-hour, eight-minute encounter. INQ