Ateneo dethrones UP to reclaim UAAP Men’s Basketball crown

by: Jesslie Yu || Photo Credit: One Sports

Outlasting the defending champions, the Ateneo Blue Eagles are back at the top, redeeming themselves against the UP Fighting Maroons, 75-68, in an intense do-or-die Battle of Katipunan last December 19, 2022, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. 

Ange Kouame was hailed as the Finals MVP for offensively and defensively hounding the Fighting Maroons with 19 points, 12-rebound double-double game, and four blocks. Securing the victory for Blue Eagles alongside Kouame, Gabriel Gomez and Forthsky Padrigao both knocked up the scoreboard with 12 points.

“This means a lot to me because nobody believed in us, even we didn’t believe in us in the start. But Coach Tab is the man and we just followed his lead,” stated the Finals MVP Kouame.

Ateneo dominated the first half as they jumped out to gain an early 9-0 run in the first quarter, wrapping up with a suffocating lead, 30-14. They continued to punish the Fighting Maroons, who were trying to fight back against the storm of Ateneo, but the Blue Eagles blew the lead and ended the first half with a strong 15-point advantage, 47- 32.

Turning the wheels of fate, the hungry Fighting Maroons did not yield over the 20-point deficit of Ateneo and crawled back into the game with a destructive 18-4 run, closing the gap to only a 6-point deficit, 56-50. The third quarter ended with a single-digit lead by Ateneo, 60-52.

Feeding off their momentum, the Diliman-based squad went on rampaging the court in the fourth and final quarter as they managed to make a 5-point lead with James Spencer’s emphatic three-pointer in the last two minutes.

With only 24 seconds on the clock, UP’s Alarcon intentionally missed the free throw to score a cold-blooded three in the corner, making it a three-point game, 70-67. But Ateneo concluded the Cinderella story of UP through crushing free throws to finally seal the deal and redeem their 12th championship in Men’s Basketball, 75-68.

“I’m so far from the forefront of this championship. It’s about these players. I’m just so grateful for their effort. I’m the lucky guy,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.

The Scores:

Ateneo (75): Kouame – 19, Padrigao – 12, Gomez – 12, Andrade – 10, Ballungay – 4, Chiu – 4, Daves – 4, Koon – 4, Quitevis – 4, Ildefonso – 2.

UP (68): Spencer – 14, Alarcon – 12, Galinato – 12, Tamayo – 11, Cagulangan – 9, Diouf – 7, Gonzales – 2, Lucero – 1.

Quarters: 30-14, 47-32, 60-52, 75-68.

Argentina secures legendary World Cup final over France in shootout

by: Kyrus Mathew Pampanga || Photo Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Arguably, the most splendid championship game in the history of sports.

Defying odds in the world of football, Argentina conquered the reigning champions France over an epic penalty kick shootout, 4-2, after the teams reached full time with a 3-3 draw last Sunday at the jam-packed Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar.

Sealing the deal in sheer bliss, the 25-year-old defender Gonzago Montiel clinched the third World Cup trophy for Argentina with a defining penalty kick into the back of the net against French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Lionel Messi—the most decorated player of his generation and captain of the Argentine team—delivered a fitting end in what is expected to be his final World Cup appearance, achieving the prestigious glory that had thwarted him during an extensive and illustrious career.

“It’s just crazy that it became a reality this way. It took so long, but here it is,” Messi stated. “I craved for this so much. I knew God would bring this gift to me. I had the feeling that this [World Cup] was the one.”

Commanding his team to a lopsided victory, Messi opened up the scoreboard on a 23rd-minute penalty kick and assisted Ángel Di María to score in the 36th minute after finishing off a five-pass team move with a staggering flick over a sluggish showing France.

Proving to be the familiar European giants, the French team sprung back into life as Kylian Mbappé punched back and equalized in style by registering two goals in less than two minutes to take the match to extra time, which left the South Americans stunned.

Well into the additional half-hour was an incredible display of grit and talent from the two superstars of both teams. Messi safeguarded the ball home to restore Argentina’s lead in the 108th minute, 3-2, but Mbappé tied the score once more within the last two minutes, 3-3, yielding him a hat-trick—scoring three goals during a single match—the first in a World Cup final since 1966.

Concluding the roller-coaster showpiece event, the blazing Argentine team worked hand-in-hand during the penalty-kick shootout by scoring all four of its spot kicks while Emiliano Martínez, the goalkeeper of the tournament, saved the French Kingsley Coman’s attempt.

With the victory laying in his hands, Montiel’s decisive effort to put his shot into the net led Argentina to claim their crown after roughly thirty-six years, and Messi finally raised his trophy in front of almost 89,000 fans in attendance—most cheering for the South Americans.

“I cannot believe that we have suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said. “For us in Argentina, football is something more than just a game, it’s a historic moment for our country.”

The victory for Argentina marked the end of twenty years of European dominance in World Cup grounds, as Brazil in 2002 was the last South American champions to claim the title.

Messi, who was making a historic 26th appearance in a World Cup match, was awarded as the player of the tournament after scoring goals in all four knockout rounds. Conversely, the 23-year-old Mbappé finished the World Cup as its top scorer with eight goals to take home the Golden Boot.

“It was the World Cup of records tonight,” France coach Didier Deschamps stated after the match. “And Kylian Mbappé really left his mark on this final. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave the mark he would have liked.”

The World Cup champions Argentina will earn $42 million in prize money for their soccer federation while the losing team France, third place Croatia, and fourth place Morocco will receive $30 million, $27 million, and $25 million from FIFA, respectively.

PVL: Petro Gazz Angels bags the crown in the Reinforced Conference 2022, claims a back-to-back championship

by: Nearlyn Lumayno || Photo Credit: The Premier Volleyball League (PVL)

Making their title as legends, the fiery Petro Gazz Angels overcome Cignal HD Spikers in a romp to earn their 3-peat PVL Reinforced Conference trophy, 25-17, 22-25, 25-12, 25-22, at the PhilSports Arena last December 6, 2022.

The American import and Finals MVP Vander Weide scored 19 points to lead the Angels to the crown, while Remy Palma, Myla Pablo, and MJ Philips racked up the scoreboard with 18, 17, and 12 points, respectively.

Kicking off the match with astounding momentum, the blazing Pablo and Petro Gazz Angels fired on all cylinders to swiftly clinch the first set, 25-17.

In the second set, however, the HD Spikers fought their best to equalize against the Angels with Tai Bierria and Ces Molina’s display of variety in attacks, 22-25.

Regaining composure from a second-set collapse, Djanel Cheng’s exceptional playmaking directed the Angels to dominate and head for an easy win in the third set, 25-12.

Keeping it close until the end, Petro Gazz Angels proved their prowess as champions after a commanding demolition over the dogged Cignal HD Spikers with catastrophic kills from Pablo and Vander Weide to formally seal the title defense, 25-22.

“I mean this environment is like no other, fans are insane, everything is insane, the volleyball’s crazy, it’s the amazing thin here, and I don’t think it’s set in that we just won because it doesn’t feel real.” Angels’ import Vander Weide stated in an interview after the game.

Molina led the Cignal HD spikers with 14 points, followed by Bierria with 12 points in the final three sets. In addition, Roselyn Doria contributed 11 points, and team captain Rachel Anne Daquis contributed 6 points.

As for the bronze medal match, the Creamline Cool Smashers defeated the Chery Tiggo Crossovers in four sets, winning 25-15, 25-19, 23-25, and 25-21 to secure their 10th consecutive podium place.

Petro Gazz finished the elimination round in third place with a 5-3 win-loss card before posting a 2-1 standing in the round-robin semis, and the team reached the finals by advantage in the point system with the help of Cherry Tiggo Crossovers as they forced a 5-setter loss against Creamline Cool Smashers.

Why the LGBTQIA+ community needed OhMyV33NUS’s win

by: Margarette Joelly Nunez || Photo Credit: OhMyV33NUS/Facebook

Recently, OhMyV33NUS and the rest of Blacklist International clinched and reclaimed the championship title in MPL Philippines. But, contrary to that milestone, OhMyV33NUS and Wise received numerous homophobic comments rather than kudos, proving the hostility against LGBTQIA+ members who ought to succeed in heteronormative spaces.

As per today’s untainted reality, the hate towards people whose SOGIE falls “outside the normal” subsequently hinders their prime, especially in male-dominated sports. Therefore, when they excel, a brutal amount of wrath through society’s established gender barriers is poured upon them. 

Jonmar Villaluna, known with the IGN: OhMyV33NUS, is the first openly professional queer player in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League Philippines. Initially playing for ONIC Philippines, Villaluna was later traded into Blacklist International, where he plays a significant role in playmaking as team captain and support.

He is globally recognized as a notable captain for developing a distinctive playstyle that won him and his team the M3 World Championship, SEA Games 2021, and MPL PH Seasons 7, 8, and 10. The queen shares these achievements with Danerie James Del Rosario, identified as IGN: Wise, the jungler of Blacklist. 

“Love of my life,” said Wise when asked to describe OhMyV33NUS.

Even before joining MLBB, OhMyV33NUS and Wise competed in League of Legends, where their paths first crossed. Later, Wise posted a statement online defending OhMyV33NUS from the homophobes, in which he also proudly announced their romantic relationship. 

As an epitome, OhMyV33NUS has driven other queer people to stand up for their worth. Such as Khan Kyaw Zay or OHMYJENNIE, an MLBB player in Myanmar who named himself after Villaluna. OHMYJENNIE emerged as one of Myanmar’s top players as he represented the country in Hanoi SEA Games 2021 and went up against his idol, OhMyV33NUS. 

“Being able to represent the LGBTQ+ community in Esports means that someone like me can be visible. I can raise awareness and be of help in changing the misconceptions and derogatory treatment of the LGBTQ+ in our gaming culture,” OhMyV33NUS once stated.

The battle against gender stereotypes in the sporting world is tough and, most of the time, unsettling. But OhMyV33NUS did it anyway; he stood up to remind us that LGBTQIA+ people can thrive in scenes where society has customarily taught everyone they cannot. 

The amount of courage it took them, OhMyV33NUS and Wise,  was unfathomable. In due course, the LGBTQ community can, too, explore what is brought to the table for conventionally masculine places, as they should.

Lack of Government Support: Bince Operiano’s struggles in Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championship

by Nearlyn Lumayno || Photo Credit: Sarah Jane Canalita Robrigado/Good News Pilipinas

Bince Rafael Operiano, a chess genius from Albay, Philippines, won a trophy and four medals from the recently concluded 6th Eastern Asia Youth Chess Championship held in Bangkok, Thailand. However, his journey to compete in a foreign country included sleeping at the Thailand airport for three nights due to the lack of lodging funds.

“We don’t have enough money to meet the needs of my son during the competition. In fact, we sourced out funds by soliciting from friends and local officials,” stated his mother, Rosemary Operiano, after Bince almost did not fly to Thailand.

In the post of the Albay 3rd District Representative Fernando Cabredo, he explained, “Due to limited funds and while waiting for the plane ticket sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission, Bince and his father spent three nights at the airport with those benches as their bed.” He then added that Bince had to fly to Thailand first without the company of his father. 

Later, his mother revealed that the parents of other contestants saw the little boy crying because he missed his father, Mr. Ben Operiano. As a 9-year-old boy, it was difficult for him to be in a foreign country without any of his parents to accompany him—all while competing internationally. 

Although Bince withstood the first game with no parent around to root for him, he soon felt pressured and dropped his first game. Luckily, his father arrived in Thailand early enough to root for Bince in his next games. From that time, Bince was more comfortable and eager to win the games. 

Since his father’s arrival, Bince had won the succeeding rounds and made it to the top. According to Mr. Operiano, his son was more motivated and driven to bag the championship title. The little boy ranked first in the U-10—under ten years old—category after overthrowing 20 other contestants from different countries. 

Mr. Operiano is absolutely proud of Bince’s achievements and solid commitment to do his best in the games despite all the challenges. This 9-year-old boy undoubtedly made everyone in his hometown and country proud. 

The struggles that Bince had to resist to win the Chess Championship are unsettling because he endured them young. However, this only exposes how the Philippine government does not give its athletes the best support. In fact, it is one of the most pressing issues that athletes who participate on the international stage face constantly—and this must soon change. It is just fitting that the government should provide extensive care to the country’s athletes, as they need to be in the best condition to compete.

PSHS Ugnayan 2022: Warm bonds in the Cool City of Baguio

by:  Margarette Joelly Nunez || Photos Credit: PSHS System Ugnayan

Ugnayan 2022 Theme: “Breaking barriers of stereotyping in sports, dance, and music.”

After two years of pandemic pause, the PSHS System kicked off Ugnayan 2022 last November 7-10, 2022, in Baguio City with PSHS – Cordillera Administrative Region Campus as the host. 

The cultural and sporting event consisted of 5 clusters: Yellow Sami-Sami (IRC, MRC, CVisC, SMC), Red Abuyo (CVC, CBZRC, WVC, CRC), White Kullaaw (CLC, MC, EVC, SRC), Blue Tuwato (CARC, BRC, CMC, ZRC), and Green Dudon (OED, ExeCom, BOT, NAA).

Warming the shivers on the 7th of November, the Ugnayan delegates gathered before sunrise and were accompanied by the Philippine Military Band as they marched from Hill Station to Baguio Convention Center. The parade was followed by the opening program involving Torch Lighting, Kapihan sa Baguio, and the Gender and Development Seminar. 

After the opening program, the Chorale and Dancesport competitions of the PSHS personnel from different campuses began. EVC’s very own chorale group won 5th place with their winning piece, “Leron Leron Sinta.” In dancesport, EVC’s duo, Nomer Gutierrez and Darry Portillo, danced the night away in Cha-cha, Rhumba, and Jive during the qualifying round but failed to progress to the final round; nonetheless, the victorious pair came from the same cluster, White Kullaaw. 

Starting with the ball games, the sports fest commenced on November 8 at Benguet State University. In volleyball, EVC representatives Margarette Nuñez and Tiffany Afable claimed the 4th spot after losing two matches. On the other hand, Leslie Cruto and Herma Morales dominated the court to clinch 1st place in the personnel category of women’s volleyball with a clean sweep. 

Shooting their shot to the championships, Vince Boonyarat and Job Beau Linao of basketball girls and boys, respectively, secured their silver medals after battling teams from the same cluster, Red Abuyo. The basketball girls won the first game against the champions but failed in the second due to a twice-to-beat advantage. Meanwhile, the men’s basketball team of the personnel category, composed of Francis Ebio and Fernando Asis, landed 4th. 

Held the same day at Baguio Athletic Bowl was the athletics competition, which was joined by Alexandrei Delector, Helena Enero, Dachel Raagas, and Joven Sumayod. Delector ran 200 meters and clinched 4th, while Raagas secured 4th in the 100-meter dash. Meanwhile, Helena Enero won silver and gold in the 100-meter dash and 4×100-meter relay, respectively. Lastly, Joven Sumayod placed silver in the men’s running long jump. 

In chess, EVC representative Quiara Macasa bagged gold after establishing dominance among her opponents. Ana Riza Gozon also claimed her medal as she placed bronze in the personnel’s category.

On the third day, the racket games filled the courts of Benguet State University. EVC’s badminton players went home triumphant after Franze Go fought his way to 3rd place in the boy’s singles division, while Vinci Gabumpa and his mixed doubles pair Antonette Occeña dominated the scene after gaining 0 losses and a gold medal. 

Battling alongside the courts of BSU were the table tennis athletes. In girl’s doubles, Jewess Alban and her partner successfully took home bronze. From the boy’s doubles category, Laurence Abuda landed 4th place after two consecutive losses. Similarly, Jennifer De Los Reyes and Xavier De Los Reyes bagged the 4th spot in the mixed personnel category. 

On the last day, the personnel pitched in the Laro ng Lahi, which consisted of familiar Filipino games such as sack race, tug-of-war, and kadang-kadang. Aside from the chorale stage, Neil Rabino and Alexandra Buñales proved prowess in the tug-of-war, where they won 1st place.

To formally conclude PSHS System Ugnayan 2022, an awarding ceremony was held after Laro ng Lahi. First, the host announced the 5th place in overall points, Cluster 5 – Green Dudon; then, Cluster 3 – White Kullaaw in 4th; and Cluster 1 – Yellow Sami-Sami in 3rd place. Down to two clusters, screams of joy filled the gymnasium as Red Abuyo sealed the overall champion title, handing the 2nd spot to Blue Tuwato.

The chant, “Agyaman kami, CARC! [Thank you, CARC],” poured around Benguet State University as the delegates of Ugnayan 2022 expressed their gratefulness. 

For the final stop, the delegates toured around Philippine Military Academy in Benguet, Baguio. The PMA Band played their hearts out through their drums and trumpets, enchanting the PSHS System. The graduating cadets also showcased their routines that anchored symbols of their values. Finally, alumni of PISAY shared their stories of becoming a cadet, inspiring fellow scholars to join the academy. 

PSHS System Ugnayan 2023 is set to connect the campuses once more in Iloilo as PSHS – Western Visayas Campus accepts the challenge of holding this passionate and exciting event.

Savage: Blacklist International Reclaims MPL PH Crown

by Jesslie Yu || Photo Credit: MPL Philippines​/ABS-CBN News

Blacklist International broke the code again and claimed their third MPL Philippines title after defeating ECHO Philippines in a best-of-7 series, 4-2, on Sunday, October 23, 2022.

EDWARD, the Exp Laner of Blacklist International, was hailed as the Finals MVP for having a diverse hero pool and for being the pillar the agents needed to win the series. This proves his prowess from his pseudonym, Agent Zero, as the first-ever recruit of the team. 

Before the tournament proper, the Royal Duo, Danerie James “Wise” Del Rosario and Jonmar “OhmyV33nus” Villaluna, were welcomed with the MLBB’s Hall of Legends award after their break in Season 9. With recharged energies, they led the agents to victory using unorthodox picks and flawless synergy with Salic “Hadji” Imam, Kiel “OHEB” Soriano, and Edward “EDWARD” Dapadap.

“Thank you for supporting and believing in us throughout the season. Even though we struggled in the regular season, we managed to get back and win this season,” Kristoffer “BON CHAN” Ed Ricaplaza, the coach of Blacklist International, stated in an interview.

In Game 1, Wise thrilled the crowd with a peculiar Valentina jungle pick, pulling two mage heroes in the draft. Not only was ECHO baffled in this game, but also the haters who ridiculed the hero pool of King Wise. 

Bouncing back in Game 2, ECHO shut down the Estes and Faramis hero combo with an awestruck pick in the tournament, Yawi’s Valir, that dismantled the legendary UBE strategy of the Agents, dominating the battlegrounds all the way. 

Persisting their momentum, ECHO gained the upper hand in the series, 2-1, as Yawi picked the Roam Jawhead to dominate in ganks along with KarlTzy’s Jungle Akai. 

However, the iconic Benedetta pick of EDWARD from Blacklist International did wonders in Game 4, carrying the game with split pushes. Agent Zero freely roamed the map while baiting ECHO to commit to the intention that tied the series to 2-2.

In the last two games, Blacklist International established pure dominance by bringing King Wise’s Valentina Jungle for Game 4 and Guinevere Jungle for Game 5 on the table and paired up with the Lolita of OhmyV33nus. The sublime connection and expertise in commanding plays gave them the upper hand, wherein they fully controlled the two games to reclaim the trophy, 4-2.

Despite having phenomenal performances coming from Jungler of the ECHO Philippines, Karl “KarlTzy” Nepomuceno, and the Roamer, Tristan “Yawi” Cabrera, they were bested by the Blacklist International for this series. But, the rivalry between the two teams does not end here as they will face once more in the M4 World Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Seeking Greener Pastures Behind the Bars of SBP

by Kyle Andrew Abello || Photo Credit: FIBA/

William Navarro, a player of the Gilas Pilipinas, was caught in the middle of an upset as fellow basketball stars and fans went to social media to express their dismay with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) not giving Navarro clearance to play in the Korean Basketball Association (KBA) for the Seoul Samsung Thunders. 

“I’m sorry but this is crazy. THIS HAS TO STOP. You got players who’ve been working hard and dreaming to play basketball at the highest level they can reach and we got our own people stopping us from achieving greatness,” said Kai Sotto on Twitter after news broke out that the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and SBP did not clear Navarro for the Korean Basketball League (KBL).

Other prominent basketball players, namely Greg Slaughter and Matthew Wright, also called out the actions of the SBP. Wright stated that Filipino basketball players still represent Pinoy Pride wherever they go, while Slaughter described their actions as ‘crab mentality at its highest.’

While it is true that the SBP should not withhold its players from grabbing opportunities that would better themselves as athletes, it is important to know the reasoning behind such actions. It would be unreasonable for the SBP to limit their players, so it begs to ask the question: why did the SBP not clear Navarro?

“The SBP respects players’ rights to look for greener pastures. But players also need to respect agreements they have entered into with their teams,” SBP said in a statement Sunday, Sept. 18. “Mr. Navarro has an existing contract to: 1) play for the national team, attend activities, practices, social and business functions and 2) with his undeniable agreement, be assigned to only and no other team or ballclub than his PBA drafting team, the NorthPort Batang Pier. The SBP does not intend to unduly prevent players from furthering their careers with other teams here or overseas. But it is a fundamental and ethical practice for players to honor their existing contracts with their mother teams.”

Based on the statement of the SBP, it is true that an athlete should uphold and honor their contract. Since Navarro still has an ongoing obligation, it would dishonor his contract if he would play in the KBL, hence SBP not giving him clearance to participate in the said stint abroad. The statements of his fellow basketball players may sound right, but in reality, it does not hold a legal basis.

However, it should be understood where the players are coming from. As athletes, they know the importance of stepping out of their comfort zone and maximizing every opportunity that comes their way, as it is what allows them to improve. They know how great the opportunity would have been for Navarro and how having exposure to playing abroad might even be beneficial for Gilas Pilipinas.

Although it makes more sense for the SBP to allow Navarro to let him spread his wings, this argument would have no legs in the court of law because of the presence of the contract that bars Navarro from reaching greatness and from having freedom as an athlete. 

Freedom is fundamental when expanding your horizons, but that freedom might be tainted by a contract. If there’s a lesson from this stirrup, it would be that if one wants to have the freedom to seek greener pastures, carefully review the contract that is to be signed, or better yet, don’t sign it at all.

Alex Eala: Philippines’ Young Tennis Heroine

by Margarette Joelly Nunez || Photo Credit: Troi Santos/Rappler Philippines

Alex Eala stamped her name in the book of records as the first Filipino to clinch the Grand Slam singles title after overthrowing World’s No. 3 Lucie Havlickova, 6-2, 6-4, in the finals game of the 2022 US Open Girls Singles in New York last Sunday, September 11 (Manila Time).

The Filipina tennis sensation hatched the best play of the match in the final set at 2-2 with a drop shot-lob-forehand combination, followed by a quick left-handed forehand swift, all to capture the crucial point.

Shaking the early-game jitters off, Eala fell to a 1-2 start in the opening set of the finals game. However, the new record-holder managed to put Czech Republic’s Havlickova in a slump, nabbing five straight games and ending the set at 6-2.

Eager to take back the lost battle, Havlickova put up a hard fight with Eala in the second set, wherein she came off with a 4-3 lead. But the Filipina starlet denied the No. 2 seed of her forceful entry by dominating the next three games that concluded the 68-minute match.

The Rafael Nadal Academy prodigy’s stellar performance clinched her another Grand Slam Juniors title after the two triumphs from doubles 2020 Australian Open and 2021 French Open.

En route to the final match, she stunned Canada’s Annabelle Xu in the first game, 6-3, 6-0; Slovakia’s Nina Vargova in the second round, 6-2, 6-3; Australia’s Taylah Preston, 6-2, 7-6 (1); Russia’s Mirra Andreeva in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-0; and Canada’s Victoria Mboko in the semifinals, 6-1, 7-6 (5).

Eala shares the credit with her tennis icon, Nadal, and the athletic genes in her roots, which sparked her passion for bringing pride to the Philippines.

“Buong puso ko itong ipinaglaban, hindi lang para sa sarili ko kundi para makatulong din ako sa kinabukasan ng Philippine tennis [I fought for this title wholeheartedly, not just for myself but also for the purpose of helping the future of Philippine tennis],” Alex Eala said as she held back her tears during her victory speech.

Finally, she added, “So hindi lang ‘to panalo ko, panalo natin ‘to [This isn’t just my victory, it’s our victory].”

Creamline concludes AVC Cup stint, finishes 6th

by Kyle Andrew Abello || Photo Credit: PVL MEDIA BUREAU/Rappler Philippines

After earning their right to represent the Philippines in the 2022 Asian Volleyball Confederation Cup for Women, the Creamline Cool Smashers—champions of the 2022 Premier Volleyball League Invitationals—braved the tournament and concluded their stint with a 6th place finish after bowing to Chinese Taipei in straight sets, 28-26, 25-21, 25-21, last August 29 at the PhilSports Arena.

Creamline’s 6th place finish in the AVC Cup successfully topped the Philippines’ 9th place finish in the 2018 edition held in Thailand. The team had undoubtedly proved their haters wrong by keeping up with the strongest teams across the continent.

Even with little time to prepare and rest after the PVL, they represented the Philippines with high spirits, giving justice to what the Philippines is capable of on the volleyball court.

Creamline’s AVC Cup opener was against one of the powerhouses of Southeast Asian volleyball, Vietnam. Key players Jema Galanza, Michele Gumabao, and Tots Carlos scored 13, 11, and 9 points, respectively. Due to health protocols, captain and setter Jia De Guzman failed to play in their game debut, forcing Kyle Negrito to step into action. Despite starting the two sets with a somewhat slow start for the Philippines, 25-19, 25-17, Carlos and Atienza showcased their grit and managed to extend the third set; however, Vietnam was still able to finish the game in a sweep, 31-29.

Second to face the Philippines was the five-time defending champion, China, who proved court superiority with a straight-set win, 25-16, 25-22, 25-20. Undeterred by their loss, Creamline was proud of their game as they had stuck close with China on the scoreboard for the match’s majority. With De Guzman back in the court, Carlos, Gumabao, and Galanza put up a tough fight against the Chinese. Carlos led the scoreboard of the national team with 15 points, while Gumabao and Galanza followed with 11 points apiece. Meanwhile, libero Atienza guarded the home floor with her superb floor defense.

Following two straight losses, the Cool Smashers finally earned a win after a four-set match against Iran, 25-19, 25-22, 20-25, 25-14. Galanza continued her astonishing performance on the international stage with a sensational 21-point outing. Carlos and Gumabao assisted the win with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Meanwhile, the middle blockers Pangs Panaga and Ced Domingo overcame their quiet outings against China with nine points apiece, including three and two block points, respectively.

Slashing their way into the quarter-finals of the AVC Cup, the Philippines showcased their veteran expertise in their fourth game against the young team of South Korea with a sweep, 25-18, 25-13, 25-17. Galanza and Carlos yet again proved their dominance after scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively. Domingo and Gumabao both also contributed 9 points, chipping into the 12 block points of the team with 3 blocks each.

After defeating South Korea, Thailand was the next team for the Philippines. While the first set went to the gold medalists for the 2021 SEA Games Women’s Volleyball Tournament, 18-25, the Philippines managed to steal the second set from the Thais, 25-23. Even with the team staying close for the majority of the third set, Thailand limited their errors and regained momentum, successfully ousting the Philippines from a semifinals seat, 20-25, 9-25. Gumabao, Carlos, and Domingo were the main guns of the country, with 13, 12, and 8 points, respectively.

Barred from the semifinals, the Philippines faced Australia in a classification for 5th to 8th places. Creamline was eager to bounce back from the loss against Thailand, where after a five-set thriller, their hard work and perseverance paid off, 21-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18, 15-12. Carlos brought home 26 points, backstopped by Galanza and Domingo with 18 points individually.

Finally, in their fight for 5th place, Creamline-Philippines battled against Chinese Taipei. The team, having played six matches in seven days, tried to limit the lead and level the playing field; even so, Chinese Taipei clinched the game and the 5th spot finish. Carlos, who had delivered the big guns in their previous match against Australia, was limited to seven points. On the other hand, Domingo led the charge with 12 points, Gumabao had nine points, and Galanza and Panaga recorded eight markers each.

“We’re very happy with the outcome of the AVC Cup. It could’ve been different also if we had more time to prepare, but the whole team was very willing to step up to the opportunity and we’re very grateful for it,” De Guzman said in an interview with OneSports. “And, you know, the wins and lessons that we got are so priceless and would be a really big help for our team, whether in the PVL or if we are given the chance internationally, we will absolutely take it and we’ll improve.”

The next stop of the team will be in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, for the ASEAN Grand Prix set on September 9-11, 2022. After two days of much-needed and deserved rest, the squad will go back to training as they prepare for their rematch against Thailand and Vietnam.