MANILA, Philippines — Creamline lost eight-time best setter Jia De Guzman and middle blocker Ced Domingo, but missing vital pieces of its previous title runs even brought out the best of the Cool Smashers.
Despite not having some of its key cogs, Creamline still made its way to its sixth straight Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference Finals with a 13-game winning streak.
With De Guzman seeing action in Japan as Denso’s import in the V.League and Domingo playing for Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand, the Cool Smashers remained unbeaten and unstoppable, completing a semifinals series sweep of the Chery Tiggo Crossovers without dropping a single set.
Tots Carlos, who led the way for Creamline with 19 points in their 26-24, 25-21, 25-21 victory over Chery Tiggo in Game 2 on Saturday at Philsports Arena, believes their strength all boils down to the system of coach Sherwin Meneses despite missing two key players.
“Honestly, yung team kasi iba yung mindset and system ni coach Sherwin, sobrang pasok sa aming lahat na paulit ulit niyang sinasabi na sistema yung ginagamit. Totoo naman kasi mina-master lang namin yung sistema ni coach Sherwin, lahat kaming players maganda rin yung mindset, and pagkacompetitive lahat talaga nagsswak,” said the three-time PVL Most Valuable Player.
Carlos admitted that she got excited for the team even without her teammates as the Cool Smashers will have an opportunity to explore, which she also did, coming off the bench in most of their games during their 11-game elimination round sweep.
“Honestly, before the conferece started excited ako e kasi makakapag-explore pa kami and makikita pa namin kung hanggang saan yung kaya namin,” she said.
Meneses was not worried when they had to support De Guzman and Domingo in fulfilling their dreams to play overseas as he is confident that his players will continue to shine and embrace the system and winning tradition of Creamline.
“Noong start pa lang nung conference ang sabi ko ok lang kung sino yung wala, kung sinong nandyan kasi talagang mag-step up naman. Kasi pare pareho lang yung ginagawa nila. Buenas lang ako kasi talagang competitive yung players sa Creamline so thankful din ako sa kanila kasi nagrerespond sila ng maganda sa training and game,” Meneses said.
Setter Kyle Negrito, who embraced a bigger role in filling in the big shoes of De Guzman, credited her steady performance to his coach and his teammates, vowing to continue making life easy for the Cool Smashers in the finals, where they will face the winner of Cignal-Choco Mucho semifinals Game 3.
“Grabe rin yung pasensya sa akin ni coach and sobrang thankful din ako na yugn tiyaga niya sa akin,” Negrito said. “Ibibigay ko pa rin palagi yung best ko na maitutulong ko para mapadali yung buhay nila magtatrabaho at magtatrabaho at makikinig sa coaches.”
Entering their 10th finals, Meneses wants his team to forget their 13-game winning streak as they eye their second All-Filipino crown this year and seventh overall title.
“Yung maganda na niremind sa amin ni coach Sherwin 13-0 wala na tapos na. Lahat pantay pantay na, back to zero, so every point we have to work hard for it,” Carlos said. “Nakakatuwa na never nacomplacent yung team and alam namin yung mga trabaho namin and yun nga natutuwa kami na lahat ng tinatrabaho namin maganda yung kinakalabasan.”