Pressure will be on Creamline’s side when it defends its Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino crown sans main setter Jia Morado-De Guzman against an expanded field.
The Cool Smashers march into the season-ending conference set to open on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with backup playmaker Kyle Negrito taking over the starting spot left by now Japan-based De Guzman.
The eight-time PVL Best Setter winner has signed with the Denso Airybees in the Japan V. League, leaving behind huge shoes to fill for the six-time league champion.
But head coach Sherwin Meneses is confident that the Cool Smashers remain in dangerous form despite minor adjustments from their hitters on Negrito’s style of play.
“Of course, the adjustment wasn’t easy and it takes time. But we’re trying to fill the void left by Jia with Kyle who is also a veteran setter,” Meneses said during the third conference’s press launch yesterday at the Discovery Suites.
“So, I think there won’t be much of a problem in our adjustment.”
Creamline has also added a young setter in Mafe Galanza, who will be joining older sister and former conference Most Valuable Player Jema Galanza, to back Negrito up.
Team captain Alyssa Valdez also expressed her full trust in Negrito’s capability of executing their play much like De Guzman.
“Of course, we will miss the leadership and playmaking of Jia but as I’ve said earlier, Kyle has been our setter for a long time. She’s been mentored by the one and only Jia Morado as well,” Valdez said of her teammate who has also seen a couple of stints for the national team.
“All (her) experiences also, from the national teams and other tournaments, we’re very confident in the performances of Kyle, and we’re gonna be here supporting her all the way.”
Valdez mentioned that they will still be running the same system so adjustments would be minimal. What they are more concerned about now, Valdez added, would be the tough competition the PVL Invitational Conference runners-up are sure to face in the expanded 12-club field that features two new teams in Nxled Chameleons and Galeries Tower High Risers.
“One thing coach Sherwin instilled in the team would be the system. He’d want us to perform every game, so we focus on that,” Valdez said.
“Us spikers and other players, we help her (Negrito) and our coaches to execute well during our practices. Aside from that, we don’t need big adjustments as we said we’ve been training with Kyle for the past five years.”
The Cool Smashers are parading the same star-studded lineup with Michele Gumabao, Tots Carlos, Ced Domingo, libero Kyla Atienza and Risa Sato.
Creamline will open its campaign on Sunday against sister-team Choco Mucho.