Alyssa Valdez leads Creamline-laden PH team pool for SEA Games
MANILA, Philippines — Six Creamline stars, led by Alyssa Valdez and reigning MVP Tots Carlos, headlined the 17-member women’s national volleyball pool for the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in May in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Inquirer Sports sources revealed the list with Valdez, who is still recovering from a right knee injury she sustained last December, still part of the training pool for a possible fifth straight SEA Games stint along with the core of the Cool Smashers, including two-time PVL MVP Carlos.
Setter Jia De Guzman, who wasn’t part of the national team in the Hanoi Games last year, was part of the call-up together with do-it-all spiker Jema Galanza, vastly-improved middle blocker Ced Domingo, and Asean Grand Prix’s reigning Best Libero Kyla Atienza.
Creamline represented the country in the AVC Cup for Women in Manila, where it finished sixth, and Asean Grand Prix in Thailand last year. But the five-time PVL champion club player without Valdez due to dengue.
Besides the Creamline six, Reinforced Conference MVP Mylene Paat of Chery Tiggo, Petro Gazz star middle blocker MJ Phillips, and PVL Best Setter Gel Cayuna of Cignal are also part of the pool.
Choco Mucho’s go-to scorer Kat Tolentino and middle blocker Cherry Nunag as well as PLDT spiker Jules Samonte, middles Mika Reyes and Dell Palomata, as well as libero Kath Arado, were called up for national team duties.
The Philippine National Volleyball Federation also included University of the East young guns Lia Pelaga and Riza Nogales.
The country has seen the last of star middle blocker Jaja Santiago as a national player last SEA Games as coach Jorge Souza de Brito bared that the 6-foot-5 V.League import is already processing her Japanese citizenship.
De Brito, who currently trains the pool at Philsports Arena every Monday and Tuesday, admitted it was supposed to be a bigger pool but a lot of players begged off.
“We only have a short lineup of  players. We invited two girls from UE. They are ready to have training with us. We dive them into two groups to see if there is any progress,” said De Brito, who will also coach Akari in the PVL. “But you know since we’re starting the PVL we have to reschedule the training.”
De Brito added the PVL will also be a good build-up for the pool members and at the same time a better way for the coaching staff to gauge the final cut for the biennial meet.
“The best for the national team right now is that there’s a PVL competition with a good level. It’s always good for any national team if you have a good competition with the highest level, you can just pick up the best players,” the Brazilian coach said.
Sources bared that a total of 14 invited players begged off, including PVL players Ces Molina of Cignal, EJ Laure of Chery Tiggo, and Ivy Lacsina of F2 Logistics.
UAAP champion National University, led by Rookie MVP Bella Belen, Best Setter Lams Lamina, Best Opposite Spiker Alyssa Solomon, and Best Libero Jen Nierva were also invited but begged off as well as Ateneo’s Faith Nisperos, Vanie Gandler, and AC Miner; University of Santo Tomas pair Eya Laure and Dette Pepito, and Adamson’s Lorene Toring and La Sallems Alleiah Malaluan.
The UAAP Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament will open on February 25 and will likely end by late April or the first week of May.
The PVL All-Filipino Conference will start on Saturday and will conclude at the end of March.
PVL president Ricky Palou, who is also a board member of the PNVF, also wanted to complete their first conference by the end of March to give the national team six weeks to train, including a training camp in Japan in April.
“We expect to finish the conference by the end of March. What we’re looking at is for the [national team] to be able to prepare for the SEA Games. So they’ll have about six weeks to train. I understand they’re going to be sent abroad for a training camp,” said Palou in the PVL press conference on Saturday:
Palou hopes the women’s national team, which hasn’t reached the podium since 2005 with back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the past two editions, will finally get over the hump in Cambodia.
“We expect to do a lot better this time in the SEA Games, and we hope to get a [place] in the podium,” he said.
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