Still two months away from the Reinforced Conference, Creamline is already setting its sights on what could be the crowning jewel to a historic first “grand slam” in the Premier Volleyball League.
With the system in place, coach Sherwin Meneses can’t help but look ahead.
“Actually, it’s a continuous system. The longer the system goes, the more it is improved,” said Meneses after steering the Cool Smashers to a straight-set victory over KingWhale Taipei in their winner-take-all match for the Invitational Conference crown at the SM Mall of Asia Arena last Sunday.
That should make the Open Conference champions stronger and fiercer when the season-ending Reinforced Conference is fired off on 8 October.
“You can’t work out a system in one or two years. So, it’s a continuing process and there’s a lot of work to do,” added Meneses while stressing the need for his wards to stay healthy.
“Of course, if we are healthy, the job becomes a lot easier.”
With the next tournament to feature imports, Meneses points out the need to tap a reliable, explosive reinforcement although he could conveniently rely on his deep, intact local bench that continues to get better and stronger each passing conference.
“It is very important to get a good import because she will score 50 percent of the time,” Meneses said.
“We already have one and we’re trying to bring her in early to practice with the team.”
He, however, wouldn’t disclose which position their import would play and how she would fit in in a team teeming with talents.
But one thing is sure though, Creamline will still rely on its vaunted attacking game anchored on heavy-hitters Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza and Alyssa Valdez while expecting to raise the level of their floor defense following their two-game matchup, including their five-set loss in the semis, with the young but talented Taiwanese.
“Their fast set was similar to what Jia (De Guzman) has been doing. But their floor defense was really superb. It’s really hard to score against them,” Meneses said.
“If you can defend them, you will have a good chance to hit everywhere.”
Strike hard the Cool Smashers did as back-to-back conference Most Valuable Player Tots Carlos and Galanza combined for 23 of the team’s 43 attack points, 13 more than the KingWhale side.
He also took notice of his wards’ never-say-die attitude, citing in particular Michelle Gumabao and Kyle Negrito’s breakout games while coming off the bench.
“Actually, we try it every game because that’s our advantage,” he said.
“MG (Gumabao) and Kyle (Negrito) are veterans. They are in great shape. They are game-changers. They really won the second set for us.”
Gumabao scored four points and provided the spunk in their stirring second set rally from way down while Negrito came through with a slew of digs that had led to a series of Creamline’s attacks and helped overturn a huge deficit into a resounding triumph.
The Taiwanese never recovered from that meltdown and played listlessly and disorganized in the third that set the stage for the Cool Smashers’ romp to a second straight pro championship and the franchise’s fifth.
The one-game title duel also produced a new star in Celine Domingo, who finished with 11 points, highlighted by four blocks, in a stint that netted her the Finals MVP honors.
“Celine has been contributing since last conference. We just made a little adjustment in the middle because we are tall. We quickly adapted into the system so we had good results, especially in blocking. We worked hard defensively.”
He also commended Valdez for delivering the game expected of her despite being bothered by an ankle sprain, but Meneses reserved his last remark on Carlos, saying: “She deserved to be the MVP again since she worked hard for that. Even if she makes a hundred spikes, she will not complain. I hope she continues to improve because she’s still young.”
That makes the Cool Smashers’ more than ready in their pursuit of the league’s historic “slam.”