MANILA, Philippines – It was with great delight that the Creamline Cool Smashers celebrated their 12th point in Set 2 against the Power Smashers last Wednesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Not only did they take a 12-10 lead against the Power Smashers, but the point was scored by Philippine volleyball icon Ging Balse-Pabayo, who was seeing action for the first time in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference.
Best known for her exploits as a player for University of Santo Tomas (UST), Balse-Pabayo signed with Creamline between conferences and has been steadily working her way back into shape after giving birth last year.
On Wednesday against the Power Smashers, Balse-Pabayo came through with four points off the bench in Creamline's 25-22, 25-21, 25-22 victory.
"Sa umpisa pa lang, medyo nanlalamig ako," said Balse-Pabayo, who entered to a loud ovation from the fans in San Juan. "Mahirap talaga kasi – malamig, tapos stuck ka lang sa likod."
"Pag pasok ko, kung ano lang ang kaya kong gawin para sa team or itutulong sa team, ginagawa ko naman," she added.
[At the start, I was trying to warm up because I was stuck at the reserve box for a while. When I entered the game, I just tried to do what I can to help the team.]
Balse-Pabayo made an instant impact on the game, firing an attack from the middle for her first point, then later, conspiring with Pau Soriano to form a wall at the net.
"Ginagawa ko lang 'yung laro ko, kung ano talaga ang laro ko [I just play my game]," said Balse-Pabayo, who remains one of the most decorated players in the history of the Shakey's V-League.
Creamline assistant coach Oliver Almadro was not surprised to see Balse-Pabayo make an impact on the game despite not having competed for quite some time.
"Ever since naman, pag-start pa lang, alam namin na kahit hindi siya ganoon ka-100% 'yung condition, we're just relying on her maturity," Almadro explained.
[We know that she's not in perfect condition, but we're relying on her maturity.]
Almadro noted that although Balse-Pabayo's hits no longer carry the same power that they did in her prime, the former Queen Tigress knew exactly where to place her shots.
"'Yung tinatawag na gulang, 'yung maturity, andoon," he said.
[She plays like a veteran, and her maturity is there.]
Moreover, Balse-Pabayo was not one to commit errors inside the court, and was quick to make up whenever she failed to complete an attack.
"Alam niya kung ano ang gagawin, alam niya kung ano ang mangyayari," Almadro said. "Kanina, may isang beses na hindi siya nakapatay, sinigaw niya lang, 'Balik mo sa akin,' ganoon ulit, nakapatay."
"'Yung confidence, 'yun ang dala niya eh, ang pagiging beterano sa loob," he added.
[She knows what to do inside the court. In one instance, she could not get the kill, but she asked for the ball back and got the point. She brings that kind of confidence and veteran presence to the team.]
The Cool Smashers improved to 5-0 with Wednesday's win over the Power Smashers, and secured a spot in the semifinals of the conference.
They hope to get solid production from Balse-Pabayo once more when they return to action on Saturday against University of the Philippines, though the player herself said she is not rushing things.
"Two months pa lang ako nagpapa-kundisyon," Balse-Pabayo said, smiling. "Kaya medyo dahan-dahan lang."
[I've only been working my way back into condition for two months, so I'm taking it slowly.]
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