Creamline looked every inch the defending champion on Wednesday when it completed a 16-game sweep of the 2019 PVL Open Conference elimination round, sealing the feat with a statement win over Motolite.
Still, despite their pristine record, the Cool Smashers’ road to the sweep was not as simple as it appeared.
As Creamline stalwart Michele Gumabao put it, “It wasn’t [perfect] naman. May mga four sets din kaming laban, so andami pa ring kailangang ayusin sa galaw namin.
“Antagal naming pinaghandaan ito and andaming preparation…
Youknow, challenging talaga para sa amin ‘yung journey to where we are now.”
True enough — even though they recorded 12 straight-set decisions in a total of 16 matches — the Cool Smashers figured in a quartet of four-setters which could’ve swung to deciders had they let their guards down even for a second.
Creamline also needed to overcome the availability concerns of main hitter Alyssa Valdez and starting setter Jia Morado in the process. Both have had tours of national duty and injuries woes for the pink-and-white this conference.
Still, the Cool Smashers pulled through.
The 27-year-old Gumabao provided the leadership; Kyle Negrito stepped up in the playmaking department; and Jema Galanza flaunted her all-around brilliance. The rest of the crew also ably contributed in their own respective ways.
And so, Gumabao believes that the absence of Creamline’s one-two punch has only done wonders for the Cool Smashers’ confidence, especially with the semifinals just around the corner.
“Pampatatag lang talaga ng loob ‘to for everybody in the team. Everybody deserves the playing time,” the former La Salle standout pointed out. “Kung mabigyan ka man o hindi, kailangan sa sarili mo, alam mo na kaya mo once na pinasok ka.
“So I think that’s what’s best talaga doon sa nangyaring situation namin ngayon. ‘Yung mga second stringers namin, nakita talaga nila kung ano ang kaya nilang gawin.”
Valdez and Morado will return to Creamline in the best-of-three semis series against Motolite on Saturday. The two cut their training camp with the Nationals in Tokyo, Japan short and will fly back to Manila on Friday.
“It’s only gonna get better from here, and we’re ready to welcome back our teammates na medyo nawala sandali.”