PVL: Help on the way for Choco Mucho as key cogs ‘most likely’ to return
MANILA, Philippines — After playing with a depleted lineup for back-to-back matches, Choco Mucho head coach Oliver Almadro is expecting Kat Tolentino, Des Cheng, Cherry Nunag, and Thang Ponce to return to action as they fight for their semifinals contention in their last two games in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational Conference.
Almadro said the four players could play on Thursday against PLDT at San Juan Arena.
“Most likely. I can’t wait to see them play again,” said Almadro in Filipino after absorbing their third straight defeat at the hands of sister team Creamline, 22-25, 14- 25, 22-25, on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
In fact, Almadro revealed after the match that his four players have been already cleared to return but their management opted to take extra precautions.
“They’ve been cleared already. But Rebisco is really organized when it comes to this kind of circumstances and we are responsible enough. We don’t want to affect other teams with whatever happened to our team. I guess soon they will be ready. They will be ready soon.”
Sliding to 1-3 since winning the opener, the Flying Titans cannot afford to lose their last two games against PLDT and Petro Gazz on Saturday for them to qualify for the next round. Only the top four squads will reach the semifinals with two foreign squads from Japan and Chinese Taipei.
“We need to have faith in ourselves and our system. And most importantly, we have to be courageous every day no matter what circumstances we face and be brave in our next two games. It’s really a do-or-die game but we will take it day by day. We will be focusing on the little goals going to the bigger goal which is winning on Thursday and Saturday,” Almadro said.
Besides missing leading scorer Tolentino and three others, Aduke Ogunsanya was also ruled out for the remainder of the 2022 season due to an ACL tear in her right knee she sustained during a four-set loss to Army Black Mamba last Thursday.
Choco Mucho has lost six straight matches to Creamline as it hasn’t won a single match against its sister team since joining PVL in 2019.
But Almadro is sticking to the positives after his nine-woman team put up a gallant stand in the first and third sets against the reigning Open Conference champions in front of 15, 237 fans.
“We lost today but I like the character of my players. It is the first time that we reduced our errors to 20. It’s a good sign for us. Creamline is the defending [Open Conference] champion and they are the top team so seeing my players fight ‘till the end and showing their true characters. I guess it’s one step moving forward,” Almadro said.
Almadro lauded his nine remaining players, led by Caitlyn Viray’s team-high 12 points and Isa Molde as well as Pauline Gaston, Bea de Leon, setter Deanna Wong, and libero Denden Lazaro-Revilla, for displaying mental toughness amid the circumstances that they cannot control.
“We just have to find a way, make a way with what we have. Do not dwell on the things that we can’t control, minimize our errors, focus on the small goals, and I guess we will be getting to that bigger goal. We cannot dwell on the things we cannot control,” Almadro said. “The strong character that they are showing, it’s a positive for the team. I hope we still inspire the supporters of the PVL and Choco Mucho.”
Playing undermanned may be a blessing in disguise as it made Choco Mucho’s role players step up. But Almadro hopes to end their woes as they make one last push to reach the next round.
“We played shorthanded but it started something to our team. I’m counting those positives that we have. We have the blocking, we have good receives today, and we minimized our errors. But we cannot be contented with that, we have to start winning… We’re asking the fans and supporters of Choco Mucho to keep on praying for us and keep on supporting us and especially the PVL,” he said.