Games Thursday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2:30 p.m. – Cignal vs Petro Gazz
5:30 p.m. – Akari vs PLDT
Choco Mucho pulled through in a tense-filled opening set endgame then asserted their might in the next two to annex a 26-24, 25-10, 25-17 victory over UAI-Army and wheel back into semis contention in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference before a big Tuesday crowd as the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Flying Titans saved one match point after the Lady Troopers moved to snatching the set off a block touch from a successful challenge then banked on import Odina Aliyeva’s stinging backrow attack and Des Cheng’s hit to steal the frame to the chagrin of the Army side and its fans.
That was all Choco Mucho needed to fuel a run in the next set that saw the Flying Titans rattle off series of hits before turning what had been a tight third set contest into a runaway 85-minute victory on a six-point windup.
The win was so crucial that it leveled Choco Mucho’s record to 3-3 for hold of the provisional fourth with F2 Logistics (2-2) seeking to grab the spot against the league-leading unbeaten Creamline Cool Smashers in another key match being played at presstime.
“Malaking bagay ito (win), naibalik yung kumpiyansa ng mga bata,” said interim coach Edjet Mabbayad, who took over from one of the league’s most vivacious coaches Oliver Almadro, who quit on Monday to focus on the Ateneo women’s volleyball team.
“Medyo hindi maganda ang nangyari sa amin sa past two games ng team,” added Mabbayad, referring to Choco Mucho’s back-to-back defeats, including a five-set loss to the Akari Chargers. “Pero nag-focus lang lahat sa laro. There were no major changes in the training (following Almadro’s resignation). We just told them to trust each other.”
They did just that.
Staring at defeat in the first set, the Flying Titans kept their poise and went to Aliyeva, who forced extension on a through-the-block hit then after the team foiled the Lady Troopers’ assault, the Uzbek-born hitter delivered the go-ahead from the backrow before Cheng banged in the clincher in the ensuing play.
It was all Choco Mucho show in the second frame and through Army kept it close late in the third, the Flying Titans hammered out hits after hits while frustrating the Lady Troopers’ attacks with superb blocking and floor coverage to complete the straight-set victory.
Aliyeva finished with 20 points while Kat Tolentino backed her up with 14 hits to earn the game’s top honors. Cheng added eight markers for the Flying Titans who, however, will have their hands full when they face the Cool Smashers on Nov. 17 at the MOA Arena before wrapping up their elims campaign against Cignal on Nov. 22 at the Philsports Arena.
Royse Tubino scored with 13 points as import Laura Condotta struggled with just nine hits and Jovelyn Gonzaga groped for form and finished with a forgettable five-point output for the Lady Troopers, who absorbed their sixth straight defeat.
Choco Mucho outhit Army, 44-36 and its tall frontline produced five blocks against the Lady Troopers’ one with the former also pouncing on their rivals’ erratic game, scoring 23 points off unforced errors while yielding 13 of their own.