MANILA, Philippines – The bitter rivalry between their universities proved to be a non-issue for Alyssa Valdez, Jia Morado, Michele Gumabao, and Melissa Gohing as they teamed up to give the Creamline Cool Smashers a winning start in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Reinforced Conference.
Gumabao and Gohing starred for De La Salle University in the UAAP, and were both part of the teams that won in UAAP Season 74 and 75 at the expense of Valdez and the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles.
Valdez then teamed up with Morado to steer Ateneo to back-to-back titles in Seasons 76 and 77 – with both championships coming against the Lady Spikers.
Their rivalry continued in the club leagues, as Valdez tried steering her squads – from Bali Pure to Bureau of Customs to Creamline – past Gohing and Gumabao who played for Pocari Sweat. In late 2017, however, the former collegiate rivals found themselves joining forces when the ex-La Salle stars signed up to play for the Cool Smashers.
The former collegiate rivals were successful in their first game together, as Creamline breezed through PetroGazz, 25-18, 25-16, 25-13, to open their PVL campaign on a strong note.
Valdez had 14 points, Gumabao – now a beauty queen aside from being a volleyball star – added nine, and Morado was credited with 19 excellent sets. Gohing had seven of the team's 14 excellent receptions.
"We just proved to everybody na we're not really rivals. We just play the game," said Gohing. "We can play together after the rivalry in college and here sa PVL. There's really no rivalry outside the court – we're all friends."
Morado, who did a superb job in distributing touches among her attackers, noted that their collegiate rivalry was never even a factor for them.
"Wala naming naging issue na rivals kami, or rivals 'yung schools namin," said Morado, who never got to play against Gohing and Gumabao in college, having entered the UAAP the year after both La Salle stars graduated.
"Wala kaming na-feel na ganoon, noong nag-sama-sama kami," she further explained.
Valdez, for her part, acknowledged that it was "kind of weird." The three-time UAAP Most Valuable Player was a thorn on the side of La Salle for five seasons, but Gumabao and the Lady Spikers got the better of the Lady Eagles more often than not when they faced off.
"But it's nice," said Valdez. "There's a lot of healthy competition inside the court, and I think nailalabas namin 'yung best in everyone because of that healthy competition."
"Nakakatuwa lang na kahit rivals, magkakalaban kami sa UAAP and professional league, pwede palang in one team, magkaroon ng chemistry din kahit ganoon 'yung mga history namin," she added.
As for Gumabao? She's just thrilled that she no longer has to face off against Valdez, who remains the most potent local scorer in the league.
"Ako, masaya ako na hindi ko na siya ba-block-in," said Gumabao. "Siguro, one less person to watch out for on the other side of the court."
Indeed, now that the former collegiate rivals are teammates, there is no doubt that Creamline are favorites to win the Reinforced Conference crown.
They lived up to the hype with their explosive performance against PetroGazz, but the Cool Smashers all said they are not letting the pressure get to them.
"We're just having fun," said Gohing. "That's what matters."
"We do our best not to be pressured. This is our first game and nagkakapaan pa lahat ng teams. All the teams are looking to improve din, like us. So we really have to stay focused," said Morado.
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