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Choco gifts debuting coach with victory

Choco Mucho gave new coach Dante Alinsunurin a rousing welcome with an emphatic 25-15, 25-20, 25-20, win over Akari to open its campaign in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference on a high note yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Flying Titans, who saw little movement on its roster during the offseason, displayed cohesiveness and fluid flow inside the court, successfully executing their game plan to exact revenge over the same squad that dealt them a five-set upset during the Reinforced Conference last year.

Former national men’s team head coach Alinsunurin, who replaced Oliver Almadro, effectively utilized his wings and built an efficient defensive wall at the net to frustrate the attackers of his Brazilian counterpart Jorge Edson Souza de Brito in his debut in the women’s professional league.

“I’m very happy and thankful to my players and coaching staff for working together for this win,” Alinsunurin said.

“Right now, I’m still having goosebumps winning my first game in the PVL.”

Maddie Madayag, who saw limited minutes in the previous tournament after recovering from a knee injury she sustained in 2021 during the Bacarra bubble, shone the most in the third set as she scored four straight points in a 6-1 run that pushed Choco Mucho’s lead to 19-15.

Middle blocker Bea de Leon fired back-to-back hits for the Flying Titans but Jho Maraguinot answered with three straight points, 22-18. New recruit Dindin Santiago-Manabat saved a match point for Akari before Kat Tolentino hammered the closing down-the-line kill to end the match.

Madayag got the player of the game honors with 11 points coming off nine kills on 12 attempts, one block and one ace while De Leon and Kat Tolentino had 11 markers each for Choco Mucho.

The Flying Titans sparked a 9-2 rally midway through the second set to turn a 14-16 deficit into a 23-18 advantage following a hit by Isa Molde, who finished with 10 points.

Molde put Choco Mucho at set point before Trisha Genesis, who carried most of the scoring load of the Chargers, saved a point only to see setter Deanna Wong seal the frame with a 1-2 play.

Choco Mucho pounced on rusty Akari in the opening set with Tolentino, Molde, Des Cheng, who got seven points, 14 excellent receptions and nine digs, and middle blockers De Leon and Madayag doing the most damage to open a 16-10 advantage.

Santiago-Manabat made an instant impact for the Chargers playing at the open position but her towering 6-foot-2 presence did not faze the Flying Titans, who were showered by cheers by their legion of fans which composed the majority of the 9,819 opening day gate attendance.

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