Is Gumabao bolting out of Pocari?

Michelle Gumabao is tipped to don a different jersey this season after negotiations with her club in the Philippine V-League – Pocari Sweat – bogged down.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the former La Salle skipper who served as the heart and soul of the Lady Warriors when they clinched a pair of Philippine V-League crowns last year didn’t sign an extension after the expiration of her contract last Dec. 31, making her free to negotiate with other teams.

Gumabao, in fact, was a no-show in the Lady Warriors’ strength and conditioning training at Alpha Strength in Mandaluyong City, reinforcing the source’s claim that she turned down the fresh offer tendered by the Lady Warriors.

Present during the squad’s first training of the year were mainstays Elaine Kasilag, Melissa Gohing, Myla Pablo, Rica Enclona, Desiree Dadang, Myla Pablo and Jessey de Leon, who will suit up for the Lady Warriors after campaigning for RC Cola-Army in the Philippine Superliga (PSL).

The source refused to delve into further details, but speculated that maybe Gumabao wants a change of scenery after the Lady Warriors dominated the Open Conference and Reinforced Conference of the V-League.

“Michelle is a competitor. She is a warrior.”

“Maybe she wants to play in a team that will make her hungry again. We may never know. All we know is that she failed to extend her contract and will no longer suit up for Pocari this year.”

Another source confirmed the veracity of the claim, but added that there might be some personal issues between Gumabao and the Lady Warriors’ management.

“The team is coming off a very successful season yet the team captain wants to move out. I think there might be a reason that is far deeper than just a mere ‘change of scenery.”

Volleyverse tried, but couldn’t reach Gumabao for confirmation.

In a short text message, Pocari Sweat team manager Anthony Ty admitted that he doesn’t have any update on the contract status of his team captain, who was named as the Most Valuable Player of the V-League Reinforced Conference finals last November.

“We don’t have any update yet. Thank you.”

New challenge

The source reiterated Gumabao’s warrior-like mentality.

After a dominant performance in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) where she won three titles in a four-year stint, Gumabao joined PCSO Bingo Milyonaryo in the PSL

The following year, she joined Ramil de Jesus and her former La Salle teammates like Cha Cruz, Aby Marano and Paneng Mercado to banner a fledgling team in AirAsia.

Luck, however, refused to smile their way, prompting the core of the Flying Spikers to return as Generika in the 2014 PSL Grand Prix.

Again, they fell short, losing the crown to a rampaging Petron squad bannered by American Alaina Bergsma and Brazilian Erica Adachi.

That proved to be the last finals stint of Gumabao in the country’s prestigious semi-professional league as she joined Philips Gold the following year.

The Lady Slammers came up with a third-place finish in the 2015 PSL All-Filipino Conference and another third-place finish in the 2015 PSL Grand Prix despite emerging as the top team at the end of eliminations only to fumble in the semifinals against a hungry Foton squad.

With a pair of heart-crushing losses in the PSL, the Lady Slammers moved to the V-League as Pocari Sweat, where they started to establish a dynasty.

They prevailed over former Ateneo superstar Alyssa Valdez and BaliPure in the Open Conference before storming back with another masterful conquest of Valdez and her Bureau of Customs in the Reinforced Conference.

This year, the Lady Warriors are tipped to dominate again with the signing of top hitter Pablo to a blockbuster contract and the return of vital pieces like Gyzelle Sy, Gohing and Dadang. They also acquired de Leon and former Ateneo star Fille Cayetano, who is said to be regaining her deadly shape after giving birth few months ago.

“The team is getting so strong that it looks indestructible on paper. Maybe Michelle wants a new challenge. She wants to remain hungry and fight the crown. We really don’t know.”

Possible reunion?

Now that Gumabao is out of Pocari Sweat, speculations are ripe about her possible landing spot.

Another source, who is connected to the La Salle women’s volleyball team, speculated that she might be headed to her former home in the PSL.

The source explained that F2 Logistics could offer a lot of opportunities as they would be missing the services of Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, Majoy Baron and Dawn Macandili in the PSL Invitational Conference next month as they are set to return for the Lady Spikers’ title defense in the UAAP.

“That could also be a good possibility.”

“We all know that his former players have special place in coach Ramil’s heart. Michelle would be welcome any time.”

But if Gumabao didn’t join F2 Logistics, she could go to other teams like Petron, Generika and Foton, which is said to be launching a massive buildup in preparation for the AVC Asian Women’s Club Championship in Kazakhstan in April.

“The possibilities are endless. Madami pang pwedeng mangyari.”