MANILA - Creamline's triumph in the 2022 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference came with a bonus.
The Cool Smashers will represent the country in the upcoming 2022 AVC Cup for Women, as confirmed by PVL President Ricky Palou following the Rebisco-backed squad's triumph against KingWhale on Sunday night.
Creamline cruised to a 25-21, 25-19, 25-8 demolition of the Taiwanese club for their second crown of the season, having also ruled the Open Conference in May. There will be little time to rest for the Cool Smashers, however: they will be back in action on August 21 for the continental competition that takes place at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
"Ready naman kami," Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses said of their upcoming stint. "Malaking benefit sa team namin 'yun eh. Kung may opportunity, bakit 'di namin kukunin?"
Creamline's participation became possible just last week, when the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) released National University players from the national team program under contentious circumstances. The Lady Bulldogs, champions of the recent UAAP Season 84 women's volleyball tournament, made up the core of the youthful national team.
The PNVF, in coordination with the PVL, then announced that the best local team in the Invitational Conference will instead get the opportunity to play in the AVC Cup for Women.
Despite the short preparation time, the Cool Smashers insist that they are eager for the chance to play for the country. For a handful of them, it will be the first time that they will be wearing the national team colors.
"Not all were exposed or parang nabigyan ng opportunity to play for the national team, and now, we're given this opportunity as a club team," said Creamline skipper Alyssa Valdez, a mainstay of the national team program.
"We're really glad na tanggapin 'yun, and we'll really try to maximize everything and learn from it as a team, and also as individuals," she added.
Two-time PVL Most Valuable Player Tots Carlos previously suited up for the Philippines in a friendly with Japan, but the AVC Cup for Women will mark her official debut for flag and country. She is delighted that she can do so with her Creamline teammates.
"We're glad na buong team 'yung dadalhin namin," said Carlos. "We'll really give our best na mabigyan ng magandang laro 'yung every team. We're really excited talaga na mag-laro din."
Celine Domingo, the Finals MVP of the Invitational Conference, previously played for the Under-23 team in 2019 but has yet to feature for the senior squad. It's an opportunity that she believes she is ready for.
"Sobrang happy na I get to represent the country again," she said. "Talagang gagawin namin lahat to raise the flag of the Philippines."
There are still some questions to answer regarding Creamline's participation, as the AVC will only allow a roster of 12 players. The PNVF previously said that it wants the two remaining national team players -- Jelai Gajero of California Precision Sports and Trisha Genesis of Akari -- to be included in Creamline's line-up for the AVC tournament, but it remains to be seen if this will push through.
Regardless of who they bring in, Valdez says the Cool Smashers will put their best foot forward in the competition.
"We're very limited, hindi rin kami masyadong nasabihan agad-agad," she admitted. "But we're just gonna give our best. Hopefully all the Filipinos, all the volleyball supporters will be there to support us and welcome all the other teams."
The AVC Cup for Women will feature ten teams. The Philippines has been grouped in Pool A together with China, Iran, South Korea, and Vietnam; they open their campaign against Vietnam on August 21.