PVL: Tolentino, Gaston step up as Choco Mucho nabs crucial win over PLDT
MANILA, Philippines — Kat Tolentino and Ponggay Gaston came to the rescue in the fifth set as Choco Mucho survived PLDT, 25-21, 25-17, 22-25, 10-25, 16-14, to keep its semifinal bid alive in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Invitational on Thursday at San Juan Arena.
Tolentino, who returned from health and safety protocols after missing their last two games, hardly missed a beat as she unleashed 27 points built on 24 attacks, two blocks, and an ace and had 22 digs to help end Choco Mucho’s three-game skid.
“That’s what I’m asking from the team to be a never say die team in this league. My players are not really one hundred percent in condition. But Kat is hundred percent in character,” said Choco Mucho head coach Oliver Almadro whose team improved to 2-3 and stayed in the semis hunt. “That’s the character. We maybe two-man down but I’m happy that most of them step up when they are needed.”
“Semifinals hope is still alive. We will never say die. We will fight until the end,” he added.
The Flying Titans blew a two-set lead, absorbing a 15-point rout in the fourth set that paced the High Speed Hitters’ 6-2 start in the decider. But Tolentino and Gaston refused to give up as they nailed the timely hits with the former drilling a back row kill to give Choco Mucho a 9-7 lead.
Dell Palomata brought the momentum back to PLDT with back-to-back blocks on Isa Molde, 10-9. Mika Reyes maintained the lead, 12-11, before Tolentino scored a block on Jules Samonte and drilled a clutch hit to push Choco Mucho at match point, 14-13.
Toni Basas saved a point before Gaston put the Flying Titans back at match point, 15-14, followed by a crucial attack error from Basas that kept Choco Mucho alive as PLDT missed the chance to seal its semifinals entry.
‘RIGHT POINT AT THE RIGHT TIME’
Gaston scored four of her nine points in the fifth, but Choco Mucho has to sweep or win by four sets in its final elimination game against Petro Gazz on Saturday for a chance to enter the next round.
“I’m always telling Ponggay, it’s not about what you did in the first (set) but what matters is she made the right point at the right time,” Almadro said.
Molde was also instrumental with 11 points. Middle blocker Bea de Leon and returning player Cherry Nunag chipped in 10 points, while Libero Denden Lazaro-Revilla protected Choco Mucho’s floor with 23 excellent receptions and 22 digs.
Basas and Samonte led PLDT with 17 points each. Palomata had 16 points, including four blocks, while Reyes added 13 markers.
The High Speed Hitters, who slid to 3-2 tied with Army Black Mamba, have another chance to book a semis ticket in their last elimination game against sister team, Cignal, on Saturday.