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MANILA, Philippines – For the entirety of the 2023 PVL All-Filipino Conference, the Creamline Cool Smashers were unable to field superstar spiker Alyssa Valdez due to a knee injury suffered in the last game of the previous Reinforced Conference.
Despite her best efforts and the team refusing to shut down her availability, the three-time league MVP was confined to voluntary team utility duties and de facto assistant coaching until the finals, where the Cool Smashers faced their longtime rival Petro Gazz Angels.
So when Creamline pulled off a three-game series comeback after a historic Game 1 loss – Petro Gazz’s first win over the Cool Smashers in 14 attempts – Valdez was nothing but proud of her teammates’ stand to win the franchise’s first-ever title completely without her on-court help.
“This series is amazing. I’m just very, very proud of them,” she said in Filipino. “I said since day one, I’ve seen them really work hard. They were super focused on the goal this conference. I’m very proud and very happy that the whole team achieved what it was working hard for this conference.”
As Valdez provided her usual leadership from the sidelines, it was former starting opposite spiker Tots Carlos who took her spot as the main outside hitter, which paid huge dividends in the form of her first Best Outside Hitter award and a record-tying third league MVP.
Stepping up as well was Valdez’s former collegiate rival Michele Gumabao, who topped the conference with the Best Opposite Hitter award and even made a very solid case for Finals MVP, which was eventually won by eight-time Best Setter Jia de Guzman.
“My trust is really high for each one of my teammates that they will fight for each other, fight for everyone in the team, and for our coaches,” Valdez continued. “Because we’re not complete health-wise, at the end of the day, we had to draw strength from something, and find our purpose and inspiration.”
“It’s really the struggles and the challenges we faced these last few months. That’s where we drew our strength and that’s the reason why they became champions this conference.”
Valdez looks to return to full strength and compete by the 2023 Invitational Conference tipping off this June after the Southeast Asian Games. – Rappler.com