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New system, same skills: Ex-F2 setters Fajardo, Alba shine as PLDT, Choco Mucho cruise

JR Isaga

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New system, same skills: Ex-F2 setters Fajardo, Alba shine as PLDT, Choco Mucho cruise

STAR SETTERS. PLDT setter Kim Fajardo and Choco Mucho playmaker Mars Alba react in the 2024 PVL All-Filipino Conference

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Former F2 playmakers Kim Fajardo and Mars Alba both make an immediate impact with their new teams as PLDT and Choco Mucho both roll to sweeping PVL All-Filipino Conference debuts

MANILA, Philippines – Setters are on-court extensions of coaches in the world of volleyball and carry tremendous responsibilities in-game, but Kim Fajardo and Mars Alba quickly proved that they can thrive in whatever system they are placed in.

In the continuation of the 2024 PVL All-Filipino Conference on Thursday, February 22, Fajardo and the PLDT High Speed Hitters gave a snapshot of their massive title-contender potential as they blew out the upstart Galeries Highrisers after a first-set scare, 25-22, 25-6, 25-9.

The former F2 setter repaid head coach Rald Ricafort’s trust to immediately put her in the starting lineup, as she finished with 11 excellent sets and helped wingers like Savie Davison (19 points) and Jules Samonte (15 points) get into their offensive rhythm all game long.

The same could be said in the second game of the double-header at the FilOil EcoOil Centre as Alba, another ex-F2 playmaker, shone in her new role with the Choco Mucho Flying Titans, who drubbed the Nxled Chameleons, 25-12, 25-22, 25-18.

Alba, a former UAAP Finals MVP with La Salle, tallied 18 excellent sets as usual starter Deanna Wong sat out due to a knee injury.

Reigning PVL MVP Sisi Rondina was the main beneficiary of Alba’s playmaking, tallying 17 points in just three sets, while star opposite Kat Tolentino added 12.

The sophomore setter admitted to being nervous after learning that she will take the place of Wong, one of the PVL’s most popular players, but was thankful that Wong and the rest of Choco Mucho were nothing but supportive in her Flying Titans debut.

“Of course, there’s pressure, but I just took it as a challenge given that the [setter] position for last conference’s silver medalists is a tough one to fill,” Alba said in Filipino. “I’m also thankful of ate Deanna because she was guiding me throughout the game.”

Fajardo was likewise thankful of her new teammates and coaches as she mapped her way around a new system after seven years donning the F2 colors.

“At first, I had a hard time adjusting, but eventually it became easy thanks to everyone around me,” she said in Filipino. “I’m happy with the result of our first game, but we have so much left to polish.”

Moving forward, both PLDT and Choco Mucho are expected to be legitimate threats to the PVL All-Filipino throne currently held by the Creamline Cool Smashers, but Fajardo and Alba – both championship-winning setters – are more than ready for the challenges ahead.

“I think having her smarts is a really big thing that we take advantage of,” Davison, last conference’s top scorer, said of Fajardo. “Her being a setter, her being offensive (minded) is one thing, but her talking to everyone and telling us what to do and what to run is a really good sign of leadership on the court.”

“[Mars] is getting there. We’re seeing good things, but still some things to correct,” Choco Mucho head coach Dante Alinsunurin said in Filipino of Alba. “I hope she keeps it up so our games get better and better soon.” –

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