Top 10 volleyball stories of 2018: Double titles for Creamline and Petron

As 2018 winds down, we look back at the headlines that shaped the sport this year. These are the stories that made us our jaw drop in amazement or shed a tear due to pride. There may never be happy endings all the time. But these events made us feel better as a fan or as a citizen of this great nation. Thus, we list down the top 10 stories that defined Philippine volleyball. These are in no particular order.

Creamline freezes the opposition

The Creamline Cool Smashers technically won a grand slam during the 2018 Premier Volleyball League season because there’s no way they’d participate in the Collegiate Conference. After two third-place finishes the previous year, Creamline won its first PVL title during the Reinforced Conference with foreign players Kuttika Kaewpin and Schaudt. The Cool Smashers claimed an automatic semifinal slot by getting the top seed with a 6-1 record after the eliminations.

A minor bump in their path to the title occurred when the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors defeated them in Game One of their best-of-three semifinal series. But Creamline gained a spot in the Finals by winning the next two games. Standing in the way to the championship is the Paymaya High Flyers which featured Tess Rountree and Shelby Sullivan as reinforcements.

The Cool Smashers dismantled the opposition en route to the crown by losing only one set in the two-game sweep. Jia Morado was named Finals MVP and Best Setter. Michele Gumabao is hailed as the Best Opposite Spiker while Alyssa Valdez bagged the 1st Best Outside Spiker award.

Morado won a second Finals MVP trophy when Creamline dominated the Ateneo-Motolite Lady Eagles to win the PVL Open Conference 2018 title. She also took home the Best Setter award while Valdez was named Conference MVP and 1st Best Outside Spiker. Jema Galanza also took home an individual award as 2nd Best Outside Spiker.

Petron blazes to two more titles

Save for a loss to rival F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in the 2018 PSL Invitationals, the Petron Blaze Spikers still had a tremendous year by winning three titles including the Beach Challenge Women’s Division championship of Bernadeth Pons and Cherry Ann Rondina. The squad of Coach Shaq Delos Santos started the PSL Grand Prix with a 9-1 record to claim the second seed coming into the quarterfinals.

After defeating the Generika Ayala Lifesavers in the one-game quarterfinal match, Hillary Hurley’s recurring injuries prompted the management to replace her with Katherine Bell. The Blaze Spikers came out with a full tank after the decision for Bell tallied 42 points to lead Petron over the Cocolife Asset Managers in their semifinal encounter. A familiar foe awaits in the Finals as Petron locked horns with F2 Logistics for a third-straight championship series.

Petron emerged victorious after three games despite the strong opposition from Kennedy Bryan, Maria Jose Perez, Minami Yoshioka, and the rest of the F2 squad. The Blaze Spikers’ Lindsay Stalzer claimed conference MVP honors while Mika Reyes was named 2nd Best Middle Blocker.

Seven months after, Petron would claim its second-straight PSL All-Filipino Conference title at F2’s expense. The championship was also the perfect ending for their near-perfect 14-1 run with their only loss coming in Game Two of the Finals. Setter Rhea Dimaculangan was named Conference MVP while Aiza Maizo-Pontillas is bestowed with the Best Opposite Spiker plaque.

Dynasties on the rise?

Both Creamline and Petron stood above the opposition this year. That being said, it will only be a matter of time until they win their next championship. It won’t be a surprise for these two stellar franchises to stamp their class over the forseeable future. Aside from having some of the best players in their respective leagues, they cohesion that they display on the court would be hard to deal with.

Bell will be paired with Stephanie Niemer in Petron’s quest for consecutive PSL Grand Prix titles. On the other hand, Creamline’s roster will be fortified by the potential return of Rosemarie Vargas and their imports for the Reinforced Conference. Those developments are scary for the rest of the field because both the Cool Smashers and the Blaze Spikers are not ready to leave the summit of the PVL and the PSL, respectively.