Choco Mucho completed one half of the semifinals cast of the Premier Volleyball League Second All-Filipino Conference after securing its eighth-straight victory on Thursday night at the Philsports Arena.
The red-hot Flying Titans put up a massive fight back to turn back PLDT in five sets, 25-20, 23-25, 18-25, 25-17, 15-12, and finally make its return to the semifinals after more than a year of absence.
“Unang una sobrang thankful ako sa naging performance naming lahat hindi lang players pati coaching staff and management matagal naming hinintay itong semis,” said Choco Mucho head coach Dante Alinsunurin.
After winning the opening set, Choco Mucho was far from the team that dominantly won its last seven games and the High Speed Hitters took advantage, leaning on the attacking brilliance of Savannah Davison to take the next two frames that put them up 2-1.
The Flying Titans then found themselves in a 1-7 hole to start the fourth before unleashing a massive 15-3 run, including 10 unanswered points, to race to a 16-10 advantage before eventually Sisi Rondina and Maddie Madayag took over late to send the game to a decider.
It was the same story in the fifth set as the High Speed Hitters once again took charge early with Royse Tubino, Erika Santos, and Davison joining hands on a 5-0 run to try and put away Choco Mucho.
Just like what they did in the previous set, the Flying Titans worked hand in hand into slicing the lead before Rondina, Isa Molde, and Caitlyn Viray put up a 5-0 run that turned an 8-11 disadvantage to a 13-11 edge.
Santos stopped the bleeding with a cross-court hit but a costly service error from Jessey De Leon pushed the hard-fighting Choco Mucho at match point. Madayag, who finally played her best game so far, nailed the game-winning block on Santos to deliver the Flying Titans back to the semifinals.
“Sa game siguro pumasok lang yung sobrang tiwala ko sa lahat ng players kasi kahit down kami never ako nag-time out o i-pressure sila para masabi ko anong naging problema. Siguro sobrang tiwala lang namin sa isa’t isa kaya nakuha namin yung game,” added the former men’s national volleyball team coach.
Choco Mucho’s last playoffs appearance was back in the 2022 Open Conference where they finished fourth after getting swept by the Cool Smashers in the semis and losing to Cignal in the battle for third via quotient.
The victory also meant the league-leading Cool Smashers, who secured a straight-set win over Nxled earlier today, also secured their spot in the playoffs, leaving the High Speed Hitters, Cignal, Petro Gazz, and Akari to fight for the last two seats.
Rondina delivered 20 points to go along with 20 excellent receptions while Madayag tallied a personal conference-high 18 points on 13 attacks, three blocks, and two aces to lead the Flying Titans after an hour and 14 minutes of play.
Isa Molde registered 15 points along with 13 excellent receptions while Caitlyn Viray and Cherry Nunag chipped in 10 and nine markers, respectively.
Deanna Wong dished out 24 excellent sets while Thang Ponce collected 23 excellent digs and 11 excellent receptions.
Meanwhile, the High Speed Hitters, who now dropped their third-straight game, fell to 5-4 in the standings tied with the Angels and the Chargers at the fifth spot.
Davison exploded for 31 points on 31 attacks with 18 excellent receptions in a losing cause while Tubino and Santos added 16 and 13 points for PLDT. Team captain Mika Reyes was held to just six points in the loss.
Choco Mucho will look to extend its unbeaten run against Gerflor on Tuesday, 4:00 p.m. while PLDT will face off against F2 Logistics on Thursday, 6:00 p.m. at the same venue.