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Shining in her own right: Kyle steps out of Jia’s shadow and shines in her own unique way

A piece of Creamline’s heart — and a lot of its playmaking savvy — left when Jia de Guzman flew to Japan and joined Denso Airybees. That gap is what Kyle Negrito has been trying to fill. The Cool Smashers’ third All-Filipino Conference crown shows that the new chief setter has been successful at that.

Negrito said there was a piece of De Guzman left in her the whole time. “She (De Guzman) reminded me to just do my best, no matter the outcome,” Negrito said, recounting how the former starting setter of Creamline would reach out to her to give advice. “What’s important is that I did my best. I know it sounds cliché but it is what it is.”

Despite being with Creamline for four years, Negrito had never been the first-string playmaker for the three-time All-Filipino queens, until the recent conference.

The former Far Eastern University stalwart led the champions to a perfect season-ending conference with an unblemished 11-0 winning run in the eliminations and a sweep of their semifinal encounter with Chery Tiggo.

Creamline swept its matchup versus sister team Choco Mucho.

“I love you so much, ate Jia. She gave me so much guidance and tremendous motivation. Our conversations were great, she helped me so much this [conference],” the 27-year-old Negrito added. De Guzman has been at the center of Creamline’s six championships spanning four years, with her last stint in the Premier Volleyball League ending with a bridesmaid finish to Japanese team Kurashiki Ablaze in the Finals of this year’s Invitational Conference.

Another factor to the smooth transition between the two setters was the proven and tested system by head tactician Sherwin Meneses, who has found gems in his roster following the departure of De Guzman and middle blocker Ced Domingo, who is playing for Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand.

“When ate Jia was about to leave, she prepared me for the big role as well as the coaches so the transition has been smooth,” the 5-foot-8 Negrito said.

Negrito’s first shot at leading the team was also the third time that Creamline has dominated the competition following the Cool Smashers’ sweep of the Open Conferences in 2019 and 2022.

“Of course [I’m proud] because I worked for this,” Negrito said. “But I have been with Creamline for four years now so this feels much more satisfying. Personally, I feel more gratified with this championship [because I am the lead playmaker].”

And Negrito would want to feel that once again, hopefully, as soon as next season.

“This gave us a huge confidence boost, being the champions so I will try my best to maintain, and if possible, elevate even more,” she said.