Paat puts Chery Tiggo in list of favorites—with a little help from the hitter formerly known as Ponggay
Chery Tiggo is showing little signs of what it lost in the offseason. The Crossovers, in fact, are flaunting what they’ve gained.
Mylene Paat dominated with 26 points as Chery Tiggo stayed unbeaten after two games by tearing Army-Black Mamba apart, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16, 25-12, in the 2023 Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference on Saturday at Philsports Arena.
Paat’s scoring prowess has helped the Crossovers transition after the departure of star Dindin Santiago-Manabat, but the veteran spiker refused to hog the credit for the team’s fast start in the conference thus far.
“I wouldn’t have gotten those points without the help of my teammates,” she said.
Help came from the likes of regulars EJ Laure and Cza Carandang, who chipped in 12 points each, but there was also a lot of contribution coming from newcomer Pauline Gaston, the outside hitter who rechristened herself after ditching her “Ponggay” nickname from her college years.
“[In this game] our opponents had to be wary of Pauline, our middles and the rest of the team because the ball was well distributed,” Paat added.
Gaston, who left Choco Mucho to join Chery Tiggo, finished with eight points and reveled at finding her place with the team.
“I’m home na,” she said.
“We have a lot of trust in each other and ate Mylene and coach Aaron have a lot of trust in all of the players,” Gaston added. “If you noticed, anyone can be fielded [into the game]. And that’s the plan, that anyone whose number is called will have to deliver.
“And I’m glad that everyone who was fielded in played and delivered well.”
Paat, the team’s captain, ]unleashed an all-around performance as she drilled 22 attacks and four blocks on top of 12 digs to push the Crossovers into a tie with idle Creamline Cool Smashers on top of the standings and underscore the team’s worth as a title favorite this conference.
“We have to take the experience. I think these experiences are the ingredients we need to become more consistent. I told them earlier that we have to really trust one another,” said Velez. “Earlier, they were playing as individuals. But when they worked as a team, starting with the reception and then with the good playmakers of our setters, our spikers delivered. So it’s really more of the cohesion and really the communication we always on point.”
After taking the opening set, Chery Tiggo fell short of a comeback in the second as it turned a 20-22 deficit into a 22-all tie. But Army’s opposite spiker Jeanette Villareal stopped the bleeding followed by an attack error from Carandang to reach set point, 24-22, before Royse Tubino scored a spike off the block to tie the match to one set apiece.
The Crossovers were quick to get their act together with Carandang, Laure, Paat and Gaston dominating the last two sets, especially in the fourth set where they pulled away from a slim 11-9 lead and built a formidable 22-10 margin and never looked back.
Army, which ushered a new era under new coach Randy Fallorina, lost its first game of the season and saw its alarming slump extended to 14 games dating back to the elimination round of the Invitational Conference last year.
Tubino led the Lady Troopers with 16 points off 14 attacks and two blocks to go with 15 excellent receptions, but the team gave up 28 errors in the match.
Villareal finished with 12 points in her first game as an opposite spiker, filling in the big shoes of Jovelyn Gonzaga, who skipped the tournament due to her stint in the Southeast Games beach volleyball but cheered for her team behind their bench.