MANILA, Philippines – The Creamline Cool Smashers were a unique team in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference, in that they were not particularly reliant on their imports.
Unlike most of the other teams in the league, the Cool Smashers can withstand a poor game from their foreign guest players, and still come out with a victory.
It helps, of course, that they have a tremendous roster of local players headed by many-time MVP Alyssa Valdez and bolstered by Michele Gumabao, Risa Sato, libero Melissa Gohing, and star setter Jia Morado.
Nikolina Aščerić and Kuttika Kaewpin still had their shining moments in the elimination round, but the Cool Smashers were not reliant on them in the same way that BanKo-Perlas needed Kia Bright and Jutarat Montripila to score at least 20 points per game for them, or in the way that Iriga City needed Macy Ubben and Lauren Whyte to dominate just to keep up with other teams.
It says a lot about Creamline’s confidence in its local core that they switched one of their imports before the start of the playoffs, and suffered just one loss before dominating the rest of the way – and eventually winning the PVL Reinforced Conference crown.
Kaewpin, the high-leaping, powerful Thai spiker who has become a cult hero for Creamline fans, stayed with the Cool Smashers the whole conference. But Aščerić was replaced by Laura Schaudt – who played for them last year – ahead of their semis series against Pocari Sweat.
At first, the move appeared to backfire as Creamline dropped Game 1 in straight sets, with Schaudt scoring just one point.
But Schaudt got her bearings in Game 2, and from there, Creamline rolled. They swept PayMaya – another team that counted on a high-scoring import in Tess Rountree – in two games in the finals.
Valdez highlighted the contributions of their imports, even Aščerić who left after helping them barge into the semis outright with a 6-1 win-loss slate.
“Well, we were thankful for Nina also, she helped us sa buong elimination round,” said Valdez.
“And then we had Laura and Daw (Kaewpin). Daw was here last year also, Laura was here last year, so I think they know the goal of the team, the vibes of the team, ano 'yung gusto ng management for the team,” she added.
Having Kaewpin and Schaudt – who were their imports when Creamline settled for a third-place finish in last year’s tournament – greatly helped even if the Cool Smashers did not require them to be as dominant as the other reinforcements.
“Overall, kahit sabihin namin na sobrang lakas ng kalaban namin na mga import, Laura, Nina, and Daw really played for Creamline and part of Creamline kaya din malaki 'yung tulong and contribution nila,” Valdez said.
When Creamline clinched the crown in Game 2 on Wednesday, Kaewpin had 12 points, 15 digs, and eight receptions for another all-around performance. Schaudt had 12 points as well.
They outplayed PayMaya’s Rountree, who was limited to 12 points, and Shelby Sullivan who had only five markers.
“Daw will always be a threat because of her power and floor defense, and may blocking pa,” Valdez said of Kaewpin, who gained popularity among Filipino fans because of her tremendous power that belied her height.
As for Schaudt, Valdez commended her for quickly developing chemistry with Morado.
“Si Laura nga, I think Laura really had her games kasi ‘di naman talaga siya gitna and we have Jia Morado, so it was easier for her to get points also and be a threat inside the court,” said Valdez.
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