The 2019 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference has been, without question, Kyla Atienza’s breakout tournament with the Creamline Cool Smashers.
While the likes of Jema Galanza and Alyssa Valdez have been usual headliners for the Cool Smashers, the 5-foot-5 libero has been steady with her defensive game, which has proven to be one of the most crucial elements of their spotless title campaign.
Her numbers serve as proof, as the Creamline libero is on top of the digging department with 5.21 average digs per sets, and second in receiving with 47.93 percent efficiency.
But while her previously unsung performance has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, Atienza keeps her feet on the ground.
“Ang nasa isip ko po is gawin ko lang ‘yung trabaho ko as a libero, kasi gusto ko lang pong maka-contribute sa team,” she said in a post-game interview.
The Cool Smashers are set to face the Petro Gazz Angels in Game One of the title series tomorrow, with both teams drawing inspiration and motivation from their previous gold medal skirmish in the Reinforced Conference.
Finishing Motolite in their semifinal showdown, Atienza commended her team for showing up with their usual merciless game to book a return ticket to the finals and defend their Open Conference crown.
“Ginawa lang namin ‘yung best namin and alam kasi ng bawat isa ‘yung paghihirap at sakripisyo namin for the team para makapunta kami ng finals,” the libero said.
The former FEU Lady Tamaraw has been at the center of Creamline’s solid system, stepping up as the primary libero and shouldering much of the team’s floor defense.
Setter Jia Morado is all praises for Atienza, commending the libero’s growth and maturity since playing with the Cool Smashers.
“We’ve seen her since day one niya with Coach Tai–sobrang laking difference ng confidence niya ngayon and the way she handles herself inside the court,” Morado said.
“Ngayon, as in, kayang-kaya niya dalhin ‘yung sarili niya. She’s really matured now compared to the first time we played with her, and we’re really proud,” she added.
With the title series on the precipice, Atienza knows she carries a huge responsibility as the main defensive player of the team, much more so against a team like Petro Gazz who has been solid in offense all conference-long.
For the libero, the Cool Smashers need to step up their defensive game even more if they want to counter the Angels’ low-fast offense and heavy service game.
“Receive, kasi we all know na sobrang malakas sila sa service, and matatangkad din ‘yung mga spikers nila kaya kailangan din namin ng floor defense and blocking,” she ended.