MANILA, Philippines – In front of a sizable Tuesday audience at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Choco Mucho overcame a tense opening set finale and then asserted their dominance in the following two sets to defeat UAI-Army and return to the semifinal round of the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference with scores of 26 to 24, 25 to 10, and 25 to 17.
The victory was so significant that it brought Choco Mucho’s record to a tie (3 to 3), keeping them in contention for the provisional fourth place with F2 Logistics (2 to 2) attempting to overtake the league-leading unblemished Creamline Cool Smashers in another vital game that was still in progress as of press time.
“Malaking bagay ito (win), naibalik yung mga bata,” declared interim coach Edjet Mabbayad, who took over from one of the league’s most vivacious coaches Oliver Almadro, who resigned on Monday to concentrate on the Ateneo women’s volleyball team. Almadro was one of the league’s most energetic coaches.
In addition, Mabbayad said, “Medyo hindi maganda ang nangyari sa amin sa prior two games ng team,” referring to Choco Mucho’s consecutive losses, which included a five-set loss against the Akari Chargers. But nobody is paying attention in the laro. Following Almadro’s resignation, there were no significant adjustments made to the training. All we said was to have faith in one another.
They actually carried it out.
When the Flying Titans were staring defeat in the face in the first set, they maintained their composure and turned to Aliyeva. Aliyeva forced extension on a through-the-block hit, and after the team thwarted the Lady Troopers’ attack, the Uzbek-born hitter provided the go-ahead from the backrow before Cheng slammed in the clinching in the subsequent play.
While Army managed to pull it within one late in the third, it was all Choco Mucho in the second. The Flying Titans pounded out hit after hit while thwarting the Lady Troopers’ assaults with excellent blocking and floor coverage to secure the straight-set triumph.
The game’s top prize went to Aliyeva, who finished with 20 points, and Kat Tolentino, who supported her with 14 hits. For the Flying Titans, Cheng added eight goals. They will, however, have a tough time facing the Cool Smashers on November 17 at the MOA Arena before finishing their elims campaign against Cignal on November 22 at the Philsports Arena.
For the Lady Troopers, who suffered their sixth straight loss, Royse Tubino scored with 13 points, while import Laura Condotta battled with just nine hits and Jovelyn Gonzaga struggled to find her rhythm and finished with a dismal five-point performance.
Army was outscored 44 to 36 by Choco Mucho, and the latter capitalized on Army’s poor play by scoring 23 points off unforced errors while committing 13 of their own. The towering frontline of Choco Mucho also produced five blocks to the Lady Troopers’ one, outperforming Army’s offensive strength.