WITH the uncertainty surrounding Alyssa Valdez's return to action, there remains a big hole to fill in Creamline's title retention bid in the 2023 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) All-Filipino Conference.
Coach Sherwin Meneses, however, remained optimistic despite missing the leadership and on-court presence of the most decorated PVL player to date.
"Nung nag-start kami [mag-training] nung January, pina-practice namin yung adjustment. Hopefully maging okay kasi mga outside hitters namin at opposite mga talented naman talaga kahit anong position," Meneses said during a press briefing.
This will not be the first time the Cool Smashers will miss the three-time PVL MVP in a tournament. They found themselves in the same boat five months ago when Valdez missed the 2022 AVC Cup for Women and ASEAN Grand Prix due to dengue.
Three-time PVL Best Opposite Spiker Tots Carlos was converted into an open spiker while one-time PVL Best Opposite Spiker Michele Gumabao returned to the starting six to fill Valdez's absence.
A return to this rotation is highly possible when the Cool Smashers begin their season against Petro Gazz on February 4 at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
"Yung player naman namin sa first six ay lahat leaders. Syempre si [Michele Gumabao] yung entry to the [first] six. Yung slot ni Alyssa talagang titignan pa natin sa laro, pero lahat naman yan leaders especially Jia [Morado]," Meneses said.
Although Valdez's return to Taraflex remains up in the air as she recovers from a knee injury she sustained during the battle for bronze against Chery Tiggo in the 2022 PVL Reinforced Conference, Meneses is hopeful to see their star player suit up in the final stretch of the tournament.
"Hopefully by the end of February maka 100 percent na siya sa court. As of now kasi nagre-rehab siya pero nakaka-jump na, nakaka-move na. Malaking improvement yung rehab niya sa kanya. Hopefully makalaro siya sa March," he said.
The Cool Smashers, no doubt, need Valdez if they are to retain this championship after falling short of a historic grand slam in the 2022 campaign