The undefeated Choco Mucho Flying Titans are stamping their claim as a 2021 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference title contender with a quick three-set blitz, 26-24, 25-12, 25-17, of the Cignal HD Spikers on Tuesday, July 27.
With the win, Choco Mucho tied up with powerhouse sister team Creamline Cool Smashers with identical 4-0 records while Cignal lagged behind further at 1-4.
Kat Tolentino again led the way as Player of the Game with 17 excellent digs and 16 points off 14 attacks, a block, and an ace.
Bea de Leon backstopped the effort with 11 points off 8 attacks, and 3 blocks, while Ponggay Gaston showcased more two-way play with 9 markers, 15 excellent digs, and 7 excellent receptions.
Off a 10-8 lead in the do-or-die third set, Cignal saw its small advantage get vaporized as Choco Mucho mounted a game-sealing 16-5 run for the 24-15 gap, highlighted by a series of pinpoint attacks from Tolentino, Ponggay Gaston, and Maddie Madayag.
Head coach Oliver Almadro is more than happy with their dominant showing, but noted that they still have a few more things to work out moving forward.
“Slowly, they’re enjoying it. They’re having cohesiveness, but they have to do it right all the time. They need to be consistent. It only gets more difficult from here. I’m just telling them to keep the positivity all the time and to trust and help one another,” he said.
That inconsistency indeed reared its head in the opening frame, where Cignal rallied from 8 points down, 3-11, to tie it up, 12-all. Choco Mucho needed an extension to win the first set, 26-24, but nonetheless got serious in the second, and crushed Cignal, 25-12.
No HD Spiker tallied double-digit scoring in the brutal loss, with Roselyn Doria topscoring for the team with 9 points off 5 blocks, and 4 attacks.
The Flying Titans will enjoy their place at the top for two more days before they take on a rising league underdog, the BaliPure Water Defenders on Friday, July 30, 1pm.
Meanwhile, Cignal will try to get back on the winners’ side on Thursday, July 29, with a match against the rested but winless Perlas Spikers.
The Petro Gazz Angels also continued their rise up the standings with a four-set win, 25-12, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20, over the winless PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters.
With the win, the two-time 2019 finalists and Reinforced Conference champions rose to a 3-1 record, tied at third place with the Chery Tiggo Crossovers. Meanwhile, PLDT stayed rooted to the cellar with a 0-5 slate.
Myla Pablo led all scorers with 24 points off 21 attacks and 3 blocks, while Ria Meneses backed her up with 16 markers off 12 attacks and 4 rejections.
Veteran Chie Saet shored up the offense with 28 excellent sets, while star libero Kath Arado anchored the floor with 23 excellent digs, and 19 excellent receptions.
With their backs against the wall in their search of a breakthrough win, PLDT fought hard deep into the fourth set, and only trailed by one, 16-17.
However, their defenses suffered another late breakdown as the Angels soared to a 21-16 advantage with a 4-0 run capped by a Remy Palma block.
Eli Soyud only made matters worse for the Power Hitters as she committed back-to-back attack errors to gift match point to Petro Gazz, 24-20, which Meneses gladly took advantage of as she ended the game with one last kill.
Angels head coach Arnold Laniog sang praises for their opponents’ gutsy stand, but was nonetheless happy with his team’s win.
“Talagang gustong kunin ng PLDT eh. Hanggang third set ultimo hanggang fourth set mararamdaman mo talagang gusto nilang lumaban, so ‘yun, respeto rin talaga. Buti na-control namin hanggang dulo,” he said.
(PLDT really wanted to get this win. From the third until the fourth set, you could really feel that they wanted to fight, so all respect to them, really. Thankfully, we were able to control it until the end.)
Isa Molde led the way in another sorry loss with 12 points, followed by 10 markers from Chin Basas.
Petro Gazz will enjoy a three-day rest, the longest so far out of all teams in the condensed conference, before they face the Perlas Spikers on Friday, July 30, 4 pm.
Meanwhile, PLDT will try once more to earn a breakthrough win with a match against the Black Mamba Army Lady Troopers on Thursday, July 29, 6 pm. – Rappler.com