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Chery coach’s off-beat style works wonders

Chery Tiggo head coach Aaron Velez takes criticisms about his coaching style as both a challenge and a driving force to further develop his craft.

He couldn’t care less if he gets tagged as an “experimental coach” due to his penchant for tweaking his player rotation each game or in every set.

For Velez, as long as the team achieves good results, there’s no reason for him to deviate from his strategy no matter what others say.

So far, his gamble has paid off as the Crossovers remain unbeaten in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference.

In fact, the 2021 Open Conference champion shares the top spot with repeat-seeking Creamline sporting 3-0 win-loss slates.

“I’m really thankful to my players and coaching staff. I’ve been tagged as an ‘experimental coach’ so I’ll just embrace it,” Velez said following his squad’s clinical 25-19, 25-14, 25-16, dismantling of top contender F2 Logistics last Thursday in a battle of undefeated teams at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

“If I have that tendency, I guess it just needs to get filtered. That’s why I have my coaching staff to remind me also if my decisions are working or not,” said Velez, who was reappointed as head coach after he was replaced by Clarence Esteban following a disappointing 2022 Open Conference campaign.

The coaching approach of the mentor, who steered Chery Tiggo to the throne two years ago to become the first club to win a crown since the PVL turned professional, has proven to be effective.

With him calling the shots, the likes of Shaya Adorador and new recruit Pauline Gaston have been playing inspired games to complement high-scoring opposite spiker and Most Valuable Player frontrunner Mylene Paat, all-around winger EJ Laure and steady middle Cza Carandang.

Adorador came up with game-high 13 points and had six excellent receptions after seeing limited action in Chery Tiggo’s previous game in which Gaston shone as her replacement at the wing.

Also benefiting from Velez’s unpredictable rotation, which throws an opponent’s scouting and gameplan off, is setter Alina Bicar.

The University of Santo Tomas product played good music with the rest of the Crossovers in their shocking drubbing of the Cargo Movers.

Bicar had 20 excellent sets that helped Chery Tiggo outgun F2 Logistics on attacks, 54-22.

“I’m also grateful that our players are always ready and aside from that they allow me to be myself. They submit to the game plan and they stick by it,” Velez said.

Fans were critical of Velez during the 2021 Ilocos Norte bubble because of his constant “experimenting” which led to Chery Tiggo’s shaky start.

But he silenced his critics when the Crossovers behind Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat stunned the fancied star-studded Creamline in a dramatic come-from-behind championship series win capped by a five-set thriller.

“I noticed (what people are saying to me on social media). That Laoag experience has two sides. So, I just cherish everything,” he said.

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