Veteran Michele Gumabao would be logging more minutes as Creamline tweaks its starting roster to fill the huge gap created by the absence of injured hitter Alyssa Valdez in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference that kicks off this Saturday.
Cool Smashers head coach Sherwin Meneses said they will be ready even without Valdez as he will be assigning Gumabao back into the starting lineup after coming off the bench as reliever of Tots Carlos since the league made its return in 2021 from a pandemic hiatus.
With Gumabao as her backup, Carlos shone, winning back-to-back Most Valuable Player and Best Opposite Spiker awards in last year’s Open and Invitational Conferences that were both ruled by the Cool Smashers.
Now, with Valdez still recovering from a knee injury that she sustained last December in the battle for third place of the Reinforced Conference, Meneses decided to activate the grizzled veteran anew to complement his starting unit.
“That’s what we are testing right now. All our players in the starting six before are leaders. MG (Gumabao) will be entered into the starting six,” Meneses said.
Gumabao, who temporarily took a leave from professional volleyball to concentrate on her campaign for party-list Mothers for Change in the 2022 national elections, will be joining the Cool Smashers’ starting unit composed of open spiker Jema Galanza, middle Ced Domingo, prized setter Jia Morado-De Guzman, libero Kyla Atienza.
Carlos, a versatile spiker who can play in both wings, is expected to switch back to an open spiker position, something that she used to play back in college at University of the Philippines.
Meneses, however, did not specify if Carlos would be the one taking over Valdez’s role.
“We’re still looking at who will actually take Alyssa’s (starting spot). We’ll see,” he said.
Valdez is deemed to rode the bench for at least until the end of February.
“Hopefully by the end of February she’ll be 100 percent ready to get back on court. As of now she is still undergoing rehab but she can now jump and move better,” Meneses said of his skipper.
“She’s showing great improvement. Hopefully by end of February (she’ll be ready) and will be back in action by March.”
The Cool Smashers will open their title-retention bid on 4 February against Petro Gazz at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in a rematch of last year’s Open Conference finals.
If Valdez won’t be available in February she will also miss Creamline’s games against Cignal on 9 February, Choco Mucho on 14 February, F2 Logistics on 18 February, Chery Tiggo on 25 February and Philippine Army on 28 February.
But Meneses assured the Cool Smashers faithful that they will be ready to compete even without Valdez.
“We started practicing our adjustment since we started training last 4 January,” he said.
“Hopefully, it will work out fine come game time. I’m confident with the skills of our outside hitters at opposites as they can play in any position.”