Choco Mucho head coach Dante Alinsunurin hopes the Flying Titans’ successful international stint will translate into a podium finish in the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference set to unwrap on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The mentor has expressed confidence in his wards’ burning desire to earn a breakthrough medal spot in the second serving of the all-local contest following their third-place finish in the VTV Cup in Vietnam last August.
“The team is very excited for the third conference because of what we achieved in the VTV, hopefully, we’ll be able to carry that momentum,” Alinsunurin said of the club’s high morale after getting a taste of stepping on the podium for the first time since its formation in 2019.
Choco Mucho has improved by leaps and bounds since Alinsunurin took over the coaching reins early this year and the addition of high-leaping wing spiker Sisi Rondina.
Despite still coming short of the top three in the first serving of the AFC and the mid-season Invitational Conference, the Flying Titans have shown better cohesion, chemistry and a more positive disposition playing under the system of the multi-titled mentor.
“It shows in our training that we’re able to adjust in everything that we do. We just want to continue that in our every training and tune-up games. Hopefully, we’ll get a good result this time in the third conference,” said Alinsurin, who steered the men’s national team to a silver medal finish in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
Choco Mucho is parading an intact lineup led by Rondina and a healthier Maddie Madayag, who were named Best Outside Spiker and Best Middle Blocker, respectively, in the VTV Cup.
Backing them up are reliable wingers Caitlyn Viray, Kat Tolentino, Des Cheng, Isa Molde, middles Bea de Leon and Cherry Nunag, top setter Deanna Wong and seasoned libero Denden Lazaro-Revilla who are now hungrier for glory.
Although considered one of the title favorites in the expanded 12-club field, Alinsunurin wants his players to focus on the bigger picture and not dwell too much on their previous milestone.
“I keep reminding them of where our level (of competitiveness) stands. What is important is for us to use our VTV (success) as an inspiration that we can bring in the third conference,” he said of his star-studded team composed mostly of former college champions.
“We started from there. The feeling of experiencing a podium finish.”
Choco Mucho finished seventh in the first two tournaments of the season.
“Our goal is to slowly get on top. As I said before, in the first conference we tried to figure out how to win. In the second conference, we’re winning but we came up short. Then we were given a chance to get international exposure to showcase the system that we have. We got a good result and I told them that we’ll try to achieve our collective goal at this conference,” Alinsunurin said.
The Flying Titans get an early litmus test on Sunday when they take on sister-team defending champion Creamline, who will try to retain the crown sans now Japan-based starting setter Jia Morado-de Guzman.