Choco Mucho overcame a sudden coaching change and a sluggish start to arrest a two-game slide at the expense of also-ran Army, 26-24, 25-10, 25-17, in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum yesterday.
The Flying Titans, who parted ways with head coach Oliver Almadro early Tuesday, survived a tight first set before getting their rhythm going into the next two to improve to a 3-3 win-loss record and boost their chances of securing one of the two remaining Final Four seats.
“This is huge for us because we need this to regain our confidence after what happened in our last two games. This is a big boost for us,” according to interim coach Edjet Mabbayad, who took over the coaching cudgels after Almadro stepped down from his post to focus on developing the Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program.
Almadro submitted his resignation on Monday and was accepted by the club the following day.
“We just explained to them what happened and told them to just focus on this game. We just reminded them that if they want to win they have to play well and enjoy the game,” Mabbayad said.
Uzbek-Azerbaijani import Odina Aliyeva pumped in 20 points built on 17 attacks, two kill blocks, and an ace to lead the way for Choco Mucho, which pounded 44 kill points and committed only 13 errors.
Kat Tolentino added 14 markers while Des Cheng added eight points for the Flying Titans, who missed the services of team captain Bea de Leon due to back spasm.
Choco Mucho had a shaky start as it squandered a 22-20 lead to fall behind, 24-23. Tolentino saved a set point before Aliyeva and Cheng hammered back-to-back hits to steal the frame.
The Flying Titans limited the Lady Troopers, which absorbed their sixth loss in as many games, to just six attack points in the second set paving the way for the rout.
Choco Mucho needs to win its last two games against Creamline on 17 November and Cignal on 22 November to better its chances of clinching a semis seat.
Royse Tubino was the only Army player in double figures with 13 points while Canadian import Laura Condotta only had nine markers.
Meanwhile, the league denied the protest filed by PLDT following its four-set loss to Petro Gazz last Saturday stemming from a confusion in an unsuccessful challenge called by High Speed Hitters head coach George Pascua late in the extended fourth set.
The league upheld the decision of the challenge referee citing article 17 of the PVL Video Challenge Regulations which states “the result of the challenge or video review process as displayed by the 1st referee’s hand signal, is final and non-appealable.”
Pascua called for a net touch video challenge mid-play in the fourth frame with PLDT at set point advantage, 24-23. Confusion about the review of challenge play stalled the set for 72 minutes.
The point was awarded to the Angels, who eventually won the game, 19-25, 25-21, 25-20, 27-25, for a 3-1 slate.
PLDT is on a four-game losing skid in five games.