MANILA, Philippines -- Creamline middle blocker Celine Domingo had a fistful of confetti in her hands, ready to celebrate while waiting for the announcement of the Finals Most Valuable Player for the PVL Invitational Conference.
She and the rest of the Cool Smashers had racked up another Premier Volleyball League (PVL) crown, sweeping guest team KingWhale Taipei on Sunday evening at the Mall of Asia Arena. There were plenty of options for Finals MVP, from veterans Alyssa Valdez and Jia de Guzman, to newly-crowned conference MVP Tots Carlos and explosive spiker Jema Galanza.
Domingo was thus caught off guard when she was announced as the winner of the trophy, in what was her first major individual award at the professional level.
"Wala po talaga, as in blank," Domingo answered honestly when asked for her immediate reaction to winning the award.
"Actually meron pa akong confetti sa kamay ko kasi ready na akong sabuyan kung sino man 'yung MVP, so wala po talaga," she added.
As surprised as she was, Domingo's performance in the final spoke volumes. She finished with 11 points in their 25-21, 25-19, 25-8 win, including four kill blocks. Her rejection of KingWhale's Beatriz Flavio de Carvalho in the second set completed Creamline's recovery from a six-point deficit.
She also added two aces in an outstanding performance that drew praise from Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses.
"Si Ced naman, last conference, talagang siya na 'yung nandiyan sa loob eh," said Meneses. "Na-adapt niya 'yung system. Siya 'yung naka-adapt ng system na mas mabilis, kaya siguro naging ganyan 'yung ano niya, especially sa blocking. Talagang tinarbaho niya rin."
Domingo, who played collegiate volleyball for Far Eastern University, chalked up her performance to having a proper mindset. The Cool Smashers were arguably underdogs against KingWhale, having lost to the Taiwanese club in the semifinals of the Invitational just last Friday.
"I really did my part lang talaga, kung ano man 'yung kaya kong i-contribute sa team," she explained. "Talagang nag-mindset lang ako and kinompose ko 'yung sarili ko, na every rally, every point talaga, kung meron man akong matutulong, gagawin ko."
Her achievement means that five of Creamline's starters now have either an MVP or a Finals MVP trophy: Carlos, Galanza and Valdez have all won the top individual award, and de Guzman is a multiple-time Finals MVP.
For Valdez, a three-time PVL MVP, it's a credit to the culture they have built within the team.
"What's really nice about everyone, hindi naman 'yun ang iniisip ng lahat na kung sino ang mag-e-MVP," said Valdez. "Kasi, 'pag ginawa mo naman 'yung role mo sa team, dadating na lang 'yung mga rewards na 'yan."
"Like Ced -- she's been really doing a good job since the last conference, since we were in Ilocos," she added. "We're just really grateful. Kung ano man 'yung binibigay sa amin, another responsibility and pressure on us on our part as athletes, as players, but at the end of the day, we're all here to support each other para mas marami pang ma-achieve 'yung team."