Choco Mucho looks to end Creamline dominance as PVL Finals get going | Inquirer Sports
SMASHERS VS TITANS

Choco Mucho looks to end Creamline dominance as PVL Finals get going

/ 05:25 AM December 14, 2023

PVL Finals schedule: Creamline vs Choco Mucho

Kat Tolentino and the Choco Mucho Flying Titans face the formidable Creamline Cool Smashers in their first finals stint. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Kat Tolentino and the Choco Mucho Flying Titans face the formidable Creamline Cool Smashers in their first finals stint. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The biggest volleyball stage in the country is set with two of the Premier Volleyball League’s (PVL) crowd darlings pitted against each other.

But while the two teams are pretty much even in the stands, on the court it’s a different story.

Creamline will enter the PVL All-Filipino Conference Finals a massive favorite, having won all nine of its previous meetings against sister team Choco Mucho.

The Cool Smashers will also be bringing along their depth and perfect run to Game 1 of the best-of-three title series on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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But the Flying Titans are hoping to bring something new into this latest showdown against a team that hasn’t been beaten in 13 games in this conference so far.

“I think the maturity of the team going through this whole season will definitely help us,” said Kat Tolentino, who has been one of the pillars for Choco Mucho. “We gained so much confidence and just the growth even the past few games, working together and again sticking to coach Dante’s [Alinsunurin] system because I think that’s really the key.”

Alinsunurin is one key addition, but so is Sisi Rondina, the powerful hitter who has given Choco Mucho a new look on offense.

“We’ve constantly been trying to improve how we adapt and I think we’re getting there, so hopefully in the Finals we’ll be able to show even more,” Tolentino said.

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Creamline was supposed to be more vulnerable this time, with the team losing starting setter Jia de Guzman and rising middle blocker Ced Domingo, who both left the team to explore career opportunities abroad. Meanwhile, Alyssa Valdez, the squad’s long-time anchor, was returning from a long layoff due to injury and played sparingly during the elimination round. In the team’s first game this conference, Choco Mucho dragged the defending champions to five sets before losing.

Yet somehow, those roster woes turned into an opportunity for Creamline. Coach Sherwin Meneses managed to uncover new gems up and down the roster, with new playmaker Kyle Negrito showing the biggest leap in value so far.

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After sweeping the elimination round, the Cool Smashers blanked the Chery Tiggo Crossovers in the semifinals.

Swollen knee

Choco Mucho setter Deanna Wong.

Choco Mucho setter Deanna Wong. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

In the other semifinal pairing, Choco Mucho had to play a deciding Game 3 against Cignal just two nights ago behind its chief playmaker Deanna Wong, who played superbly despite a swollen knee.

“[Leading the team is] my responsibility and I don’t want to let the team down,” Wong told the Inquirer late Tuesday evening, after grimacing in pain in the crucial part of the fourth set because of an apparent aggravated knee injury.

“I was feeling it even before the game, then during the game in the fourth set, something clicked [in my knee],” she said. “But I still focused on the game. Kinakaya (I played through it).”

Choco Mucho also breathed fire during the eliminations, winning 10 straight games after losing to Creamline. That run was halted by a shock Game 1 victory by Cignal in the semifinal opener.

Maddie Madayag will help Rondina and Tolentino in attacking the Creamline defense.

And despite the gloomy matchup history and the long hike ahead of Choco Mucho, Rondina believes that the Flying Titans’ work ethic will be a difference-maker this time.

“As I’ve repeatedly said, [success] can be attained through [hard] work and if we really will it. This will depend on resilience, perseverance, hard work and patience. We know that Creamline will not back down easily, and we won’t too,” Rondina said.

Valdez has slowly worked herself to her old form and will provide the Cool Smashers a valuable option outside of Tots Carlos, Jema Galanza and Michele Gumabao.

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The Crossovers and the HD Spikers will also settle who completes the podium finishers in their own best-of-three affair with Game 1 at 4 p.m. in the same Pasay venue.

TAGS: Choco Mucho, Creamline, PVL

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