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Tough battle awaits Cool Smashers in AVC Cup

It’s going to be a very short rest for Creamline as it competes in the Asian Volleyball Confederation Cup for Women that the country will host at the Philsports Arena from 21 to 28 August.

Prized middle blocker Celine Domingo — the Most Valuable Player of the finals of the recent Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference — will banner the Cool Smashers in their bid to clinch the Asian title against a very strong field that includes world super powers China and South Korea.

Domingo will be aided by veterans Alyssa Valdez, Jia de Guzman, Michele Gumabao and Jema Galanza, who will be making a return to the international arena.

Valdez, the heart and soul of this Creamline squad, has been campaigning for the women’s team since the 28th Southeast Asian Games in 2015 while de Guzman joined the squad in the 18th Asian Games in 2018 and the 30th SEA Games in 2019.

On the same note, Gumabao vied for the national squad in the AVC Asian Senior Women’s Championship in 2015 while Galanza is also a veteran of numerous AVC club tourneys.

Domingo, Valdez, De Guzman, Gumabao and Galanza will be backed up by a rock-solid cast of supporters in middle blockers Risa Sato, Pau Soriano and Jeanette Panaga, liberos Kyla Atienza and Ella de Jesus, outside hitter Rose Vargas and Fille Cayetano, setter Kyle Negrito and opposite Tots Carlos — the MVP of the conference of the recent PVL wars.

Sherwin Meneses will serve as head coach with Karlo Santos as assistant coach, Ariel Morado as trainer and Mark Caron as strength and conditioning mentor.

Actually, the distinction of representing the country belongs to the national squad composed of the nucleus of University Athletic Association of the Philippines champion National University.

But when the Lady Bulldogs declined the offer to become last-minute replacements to Covid-hit Kobe Shinwa Women’s University of Japan in the PVL Invitationals, the PNVF leadership decided to “release” them and award the honor of donning the national colors to the PVL champion.

The Cool Smashers are headed for a grueling battle.

Aside from being a mere club team with no foreign player, they will also be stacked against Asia’s finest spikers, including those from Rio Olympics champion China and super power South Korea.

The Chinese, for one, is tipped to parade former Olympic MVP Zhu Ting together withy veterans Ding Xia, Yan Ni, Zhang Changning, Liu Xiaotong and Liu Yanhan, who won the MVP honors against Valdez, De Guzman and Sato during the AVC Asian U23 Women’s Championship in Manila in 2015.

Meanwhile, the Koreans, who missed the medal podium of the Tokyo Olympics, will be led by the prolific Kim Yeong-kuon together with veterans Lee So-young, Lee Da-hyeon and Kimm Hee-jin.

The Cool Smashers will open their campaign against Southeast Asian rival Vietnam on the 21st before clashing with China on the 23rd, Iran on the 24th and South Korea on the 25th.

They need to finish in the top four of Pool A to advance to the quarterfinals. Should they wound fifth, they will bomb out of medal contention and settle for ninth place.

But should they make it, they will get the chance to face teams in Pool B like Japan, Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Australia.

The Cool Smashers have already started its training at Philsports Arena on Wednesday.

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