More than Creamline’s emphatic return to the PVL (Philippine Volleyball League) throne, it’s the fans who emerged triumphant from the shortened but impactful Open Conference.
For it quenched their thirst for volley action denied them the past two years due to the global health crisis. And the best and the brightest delivered what the league had guaranteed from the start – highly competitive duels.
And a slew of young, rising stars, led by no less than conference MVP Tots Carlos, ensured the steady flow of talents that would keep the pro league growing and glowing – and the fans packing the venues – in the next decade or so.
Record crowds of over 16,000 graced the Creamline-Choco Mucho semis showdown and Game One of the finals at the MOA Arena, and over 7,000 fans trooped to the Ynares Center in Antipolo and witnessed the Cool Smashers crown themselves the second pro champions after the Chery Tiggo Crossovers upstaged them in the inaugurals under the bubble setup in Ilocos Norte last August.
“I’m very happy for volleyball itself,” said Alyssa Valdez, easily the face of the sport the last few years. “It’s just so nice that this is probably the biggest comeback in sports.”
“And we’re very thankful for the fans, they’re all here, cheering and supporting us,” added Valdez after powering Creamline to the title-clinching 25-18, 15-25, 25-23, 25-16 win over the Petro Gazz Angels last Friday.
Creamline also needed four sets – and a lot of patience and breaks – before squeezing out a 25-16, 23-25, 25-12, 32-30 victory over the plucky Angels in the series opener.
“We’re just happy to welcome everyone and I’m really thankful no matter who is their idol or the team they support, they are here to support the sport,” added Valdez.
Meanwhile, Carlos basked in the glory of their success – and her first championship – and looked forward to annexing more titles.
“I learned a lot from this experience. I think, this is just the start,” said Carlos, whose imposing 20.67 points output before the finals secured her claim on the coveted individual honors.
But she downplayed her exploits, insisting it was a team effort and the result of their hard work following their setback in last year’s pro inaugurals.
“Sobrang sarap kasi trinabaho namin lahat ito. After falling short of our bid last year, we really wanted to redeem ourselves. We all stayed focused on our training,” said the jump-serving, heavy-handed former UP stalwart
“We are one big family in this team. We are very open and we have one common goal – help each other,” said Carlos. “So, it’s really very fulfilling to bounce back (from that loss to Chery Tiggo). Talagang sobrang sarap, sobrang saya kasi madami din kaming napapasayang tao.”
“This just the beginning for Tots,” said Valdez, who also cited the roles that the likes of Jema Galanza, Cel Domingo, Jeanette Panaga and the rest, including playmaker Jia Morado, had played in their successful title run.
Despite her past championships, Valdez considered their latest triumph as one of the best and one to cherish.
“I’m overwhelmed. It’s just so nice to have another memory here in Ynares with the championship,” said Valdez, who with the Cool Smashers actually left the Ynares arena disappointed after being foiled by the Angels in the 2019 Reinforced Conference finals.
“With all the people for the first time. Kaya napakasarap sa pakiramdam ng panibagong memory na to. We will surely treasure this.”
For all her achievements, the former Ateneo star relished her first Finals MVP accolade although she stressed emphasis was on winning the championship.
“It’s an entirely different season, we needed to be prepared mentally and physically. We needed to stay in top condition and we’re so grateful to our coaches, they all did what they needed to do – in training and in actual games,” said Valdez.
“My goal is to help win the team championship. Any individual award we would win would be just a bonus,” said Valdez. “But I’m still grateful and it’s a responsibility for me to keep on going and stay focused on the coming seasons and next tournaments.”
“I hope our volleyball family will grow bigger as the sport continues its comeback form the pandemic,” added Valdez.
With the fans back in droves in new normal, there’s no other way for the league to go but up.