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Creamline Cool Smashers

Eat, sleep, volleyball, repeat: Tots Carlos and Pangs Panaga wouldn’t have it any other way

The Premier Volleyball League team Creamline Cool Smashers has had quite a year so far. They won the championships for both the PVL Open Conference and the PVL Invitational Conference this year. And along with their local tournaments, they also represented the Philippines at the AVC Cup and the ASEAN Grand Prix.

And what’s more: they aren’t done. This coming October 8 marks the start of yet another tournament, the PVL Reinforced Conference.

A competitive calendar such as theirs sounds very hectic. And above all else, challenging.

But, speaking to two Creamline players themselves, Diana Mae “Tots” Carlos and Jeanette “Pangs” Panaga, we discovered that it was the players’ passion that helped them stay focused tournament after tournament.

4 major tournaments this year (and counting)

Creamline was crowned the champions of both the PVL Open Conference and the PVL Invitational Conference this year. And as arguably the best club n the country, the team was called up to represent the flag in two international tournaments. Which Carlos and Panaga both agreed were their toughest competitions of the year thus far.

“When you say it’s an international game, iba yung mga linalaro nila sa loob ng court, so you have to double the effort,” Panaga shared.

Their first international tournament was the Asian Women’s Volleyball Cup which took place in August, right here in the team’s home country. The team finished sixth.

The second was the ASEAN Grand Prix, held in Thailand. There, the team finished fourth in the standings. And part of the challenge of their international tournaments was the schedules.

The players shared that unlike playing in the PVL, the international games were much closer together—usually every day. And with games played at night, training the following morning, and more games to play again later, the Creamline MVP, Carlos, admitted, “I think yun ang mga challenging for us.”

But, even though the tournaments’ formats were more challenging, and opponents had differing styles of play, everything else on the Creamline side stayed more or less the same. Their training, their mindset, and their adjustments—the players treat it like any other game.

And, in every single game, they always play to the best of their abilities.

Time off is well earned

After bringing their A-game to every single match at all of their tournaments for the year, the team got a much-deserved break after the ASEAN Grand Prix.

While they were in Thailand, they took a quick three-day trip to Bangkok, where the team was able to celebrate their PVL championship wins however they pleased. There, Carlos and Panaga shared that their favorite parts of the trip were the shopping and eating.

Sobrang solid ng food ng Thailand,” Pangs shared. Among the players’ favorite dishes were Green Curry, Tom Yang soup, Pad Thai, and Mango Sticky Rice.

After their short and well-earned vacation days in Thailand, they came back home to spend a few days with their family members at home. And given their tight tournament schedules, they were extremely grateful for the opportunity to take a break.

“We’re actually grateful that we had a week or three days break. With the calendar that we have this year, sobrang ma-appreciate namin na binigyan kami ng break ni coach,” Carlos said. Then we went back to training ‘yun Monday din na ‘yun.”

The competition starts at training

Of course, two PVL championships and two opportunities to represent the Philippines do not come without a challenge. And for these players, the challenge comes in the form of their training.

Both Creamline champions shared that their training starts every day from 6:00 to 9:00 AM. So, as early as 4:00 AM, most of them have to be ready. And by ready, we mean ready.

“Lahat ng teammates namin, very competitive sila, so you have to give extra effort para magawa yung mga pinapagawa ng coaches,” Panaga shared, to which Carlos had to agree.

Creamline Cool Smashers

Yung environment sa team, super competitive. Even the coaches, they will really challenge us everyday to do better…Yun lang naman yung time, eh. We’ll start our day at 4:00 or 4:30, hanggang mga 9:00 or 9:30, after that free naman kami. So yun lang naman ang hinihingi ng mga coaches namin,” she explained.

And it is because of the challenging training environment that they feel brought them to where they are. The healthy competition between teammates, the push from their coaches, and the skill the players are expected to show up—these brought them back-to-back PVL championships in one year.

Ganun kahirap yung training. But it’s good because you can see results. We have very good coaches, [so] we really like it,” Carlos emphasized.

Work hard, rest hard

When athletes work hard, the Creamline players play hard too. But in the case of these two championship players, ‘rest hard’ may be more appropriate.

When asked what Carlos and Panaga do in their free time when they aren’t training, they both responded simultaneously saying, “We sleep.”

“As we said, training kasi is sobrang competitive…But [it’s] healthy competition, like everyone really wants to get the ball, everyone wants to get a point—so full effort talaga every training. So yun, we go sleep,” Carlos explained.

To which Panaga added, “From 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.”

And when asked what other hobbies they do outside of their training and competitions, they emphasized the matter further.

“I like lying down on the bed,” Carlos replied.

Gusto ko lang matulog,” Panaga also revealed.

Creamline players Tots Carlos and Pangs Panaga

But, they also shared that outside of training, occasionally, they sometimes enjoy going out for a coffee at a cafe. But of course, depending on their mood for the day.

Ultimately, if these two players take their training seriously, they take their recovery time even more so. But it doesn’t faze them. In their view, it’s all part of the process. After all, they get to do what they love.

Passion is the motive

After competing in four major tournaments for the year, not to mention their upcoming PVL Reinforced Conference, staying in the game mentally may be just as challenging as doing so physically. And for both Carlos and Panaga, they both find their mentality and motivation in their passion for the sport.

“We’re really lucky na ito ang trabaho namin. We just have to work for three hours, games na ang pinakamatagal, so we’re really grateful that we’re here,” Carlos shared. “Ako personally, I’m just really happy that I get to do what I love every day.”

Panaga shared the same sentiments. “At the end of the day, ang work mo, passion mo. ‘Yun lagi ang mindset ko.”

Creamline Cool Smashers

These two incredible athletes are among the most passionate individuals we have ever had the chance to meet. Even when talking about their most challenging competitor, which both Carlos and Panaga agreed was Thailand, they also both agreed that they were excited to go up against them.

And for the upcoming PVL Reinforced Tournament, they shared that their entire team is excited to compete again.

The saying, “When you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life” feels applicable to these two volleyball stars. And with the rise of volleyball in the Philippines in recent years, they hope that the same passion drives a future generation of players.

Creamline players Tots Carlos and Pangs Panaga

“Sa mga nagstart pa lang…’Wag kayong mawala ng hope. Lahat naman tayo nag-start from zero, so gawin mo ‘yung best mo lang everyday,” Panaga said. “Trust the process.”

“Minsan right now hindi pa rin ako nakakaniwala na nagkaroon ng professional volleyball league, and we’re really happy na meron kasi we don’t really know kung anong gagawin namin ngayon kung walang professional volleyball tournament dito sa Pilipinas,” Carlos shared. “I want [the young players] to be grateful and appreciate lahat ng tulong na ginagawa ng coaches, ng teammates, ng lahat.”

Images courtesy of Diana Mae “Tots” Carlos and Jeanette “Pangs” Panaga.