Intentional or not, multi-awarded coaches Oliver Almadro and Dante Alinsunurin added color to their professional rivalry in the Premier Volleyball League following a post-match gesture — or the lack of it — caught on live broadcast.
Almadro had the last laugh when Petro Gazz pounded to submission his former team Choco Mucho now handled by Alinsunurin to cap the double-header Thursday playdate of the Premier Volleyball League at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
As a gesture of sportsmanship and acceptance of defeat, Alinsunurin extended his hand to congratulate his conqueror after the match.
However, Almadro with both hands on his hips and an emotionless look on his face never made eye contact with his counterpart, turned his back and proceeded to give high fives and taps on the back to other team officials of the Flying Titans.
This was the image that marked the Angels’ 25-18, 25-20, 25-21, victory that ignited a rivalry filled with drama and subplots.
On a high after his conquest of Choco Mucho in their first meeting since leaving the team midway through the Reinforced Conference, Almadro took pride in how Petro Gazz crushed their opponents in an emphatic fashion to bounce back from an opening day loss to Creamline.
It was the first women’s club showdown between Almadro and Alinsunurin — who are both former men’s national team coaches — following their storied rivalry in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines and the Spikers’ Turf.
Familiar with his former players’ skills and tendencies, Almadro plotted a perfect plan executed by the Angels to the tee.
“Their fans said they have a new system. I have no idea how they do things now but we just played our game. That’s where we kept our focus,” Almadro said.
“I just told them to focus on our own skills, our own character. Whatever they put on us we’re ready.”
Veterans Aiza Maizo-Pontillas and Grethcel Soltones ripped their way through the defense of the Flying Titans, scoring 19 and 11 points, respectively, to lead the Angels.
Petro Gazz made Choco Mucho bleed on offense with only Kat Tolentino finishing in double figures with 14 points.
Maddie Madayag and team captain Bea de Leon, who were Almadro’s players since college in Ateneo de Manila University, combined for measly five points after logging in double digits in their triumph over Akari.
“I don’t think the system helped but for me, they prepared for it, we prepared for it. We must prepare for every team. I told them this is just one of our assignments. Choco Mucho is just one of the teams that we need to beat. We can’t go down 0-2 so we need to win this game,” Almadro said.
Alinsunurin, who steered the national squad to a silver medal finish in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, saw the game as a learning experience for his squad.
He also admitted he’s motivated facing off against a formidable tactician like Almadro but would rather not let his team feel the weight of the pressure.
“Of course, there is (added motivation) but I told them not to give in to pressure. What we really wanted was for the team to play and improve. Whatever the result is, what’s important is that we learn in every game,” Alinsunurin said.
The Choco Mucho mentor refrained from giving any comments on what transpired after the game.
He just laughed off the matter and said that these things should better be left ignored.