Alyssa Valdez Creamline Cool Smashers PVL

Creamline’s Alyssa Valdez reacts during the Cool Smashers game against the Chery Tiggo Crossovers in the PVL Reinforced Conference semifinals. PVL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Creamline coach Sherwin Meneses hopes Alyssa Valdez will be fit to play by the end of February as she takes cautious approach in her recovery from a right knee injury.

Valdez said there is no timetable for her return, but Meneses is hopeful that their star player can join them in the 2023 Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference, which kicks off Saturday next week at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Hopefully, by the end of February, she will be 100 percent to play in the court. As of now, she is still undergoing rehab but she can now move and jump. But she has been showing good signs of improvement from her rehab. Hopefully, by the end of February or March she will be cleared to play,” said Meneses in Filipino.

The Cool Smashers open their title-retention bid against their Finals rivals last season, the Petro Gazz Angels, on the opening day. If Valdez returns by the end of February or early March, she will play the latter part of the elimination round ending on March 16.

Without their star spiker, the two-time PVL champion coach will bank on Michele Gumabao as a starter and convert reigning MVP Tots Carlos as an outside hitter — the same adjustment he made when Creamline missed Valdez in the AVC Cup and Asean Grand Prix last year due to dengue.

“MG [Gumabao] is the entry to our first six. That’s what we’re testing right now. But all of our players are leaders, especially Jia [De Guzman],” Meneses said.

Setter Jia De Guzman will be the team captain, while Carlos, Gumabao, and Jema Galanza need to embrace bigger responsibilities as Valdez continues to recover.

With the Cool Smashers eyeing a golden repeat this All-Filipino, Valdez said she is confident in her teammates’ abilities as she continues her rehab for a right knee injury, which she sustained last December during their battle for bronze against Chery Tiggo in the Reinforced Conference.

“I think that the expectations will be higher. With this kind of pressure, I believe [in them] ever since. Also when I had dengue, everyone stepped up. Very much confident in this team. They will put up a good fight this conference,” said Valdez in Filipino.

The three-time MVP will take her time to reflect and see the game from a different perspective while she is still out.

“Honestly, I’ve been enjoying it seeing volleyball from a different perspective. I get to appreciate it more. That’s one thing that motivates me also to keep going and get back right away. So it’s been very hard because the team is competitive and also are the coaches,” Valdez said.  “I’m trying to get used to that feeling again but I think that’s one thing also they say that I have to see volleyball from a different side.”

Valdez is hoping to join his team soon in practice and games as her recovery continues.

“The doctors and PT (physical therapist) said I’ve been recovering well. The timetable is still uncertain. They want me to get back 100 percent without rushing,” she said.

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