April 14, 2024

PVL preview: Choco Mucho hungry for more after silver medal finish

PVL preview: Choco Mucho hungry for more after silver medal finish
Art by Mitzi SoArt by Mitzi Solano/One Sportslano/One Sports

Can the Choco Mucho Flying Titans keep their Titan Pride?

The 2023 PVL Second All-Filipino Conference was a breakthrough for coach Dante Alinsunurin Jr.'s squad, as they finally honed in on his system to take the silver medal.

This new conference feels a lot different for the ube girls though, with the departure of long-time kapitana Bea de Leon, veteran floor defense specialist Dennise Lazaro-Revilla, and spiker Caitlin Viray.

Will the entry of Mars Alba, Mean Mendrez, Bia General, and Royse Tubino be enough to fill the void, as well as become the final push for the title?

Coach: Dante Alinsunurin Jr.

Departures: Caitlin Viray, Dennise Lazaro-Revilla, Bea de Leon

Acquisitions: Mars Alba, Mean Mendrez, Bia General, Royse Tubino

AFC lineup

  • Outside hitters: Regine Arocha, Mean Mendrez, Isa Molde, Sisi Rondina, Royse Tubino
  • Opposite spiker: Kat Tolentino
  • Middle blockers: Maddie Madayag, Cherry Nunag, Aduke Ogunsanya, Maika Ortiz
  • Setters: Mars Alba, Jem Ferrer, Deanna Wong
  • Liberos: Bia General, Thang Ponce

Previous AFC record: Silver medal (10-1 in the preliminaries)

Sisi Rondina was of course hailed the Most Valuable Player of the Conference, and deservedly so.

She was the second top scorer of the preliminaries with 194 total points, while listed as the third best spiker with a 37.94% success rate.

At the same time, the Philippines' beach volleyball queen took pride in her defense with the second best efficiency of 43.72% when it comes to reception.

  

Thang Ponce also found the spotlight after her breakout role in Choco Mucho's VTV Cup bronze run. She was noted as the second best digger of the preliminaries en route to becoming the Best Libero of the conference.

  

Deanna Wong also proved herself during the preliminaries as the top performing setter.

As a team, the Flying Titans have shown why they only lost once during the preliminaries. Choco Mucho was the second best spiking team with a 34.32% succes rate, the second best setting team, and the second best receiving team with a 37.31% efficiency rate.

They were also hailed the third best team in the service department with 53 aces, as well as the third best digging team with an average of 13.97 per set.

  

She's the captain now

Maddie Madayag is the captain for the Choco Mucho Flying Titans for the season, stepping up to the role with the departure of BDL.

"Bagong set of people na 'yung ili-lead ko. Right now, I'm earning their respect. Gusto ko munang makita nila na deserving din na respetuhin ako as a leader," Madayag said during the PVL Media Day.

"So far, it's a challenge, but I'm willing to accept the challenge. 'Yun 'yung binigay ng coaches sa 'kin. Binigyan din nila ako ng trust dahil ako 'yung pinili nilang maging leader sa team."

And she wants to lead by example. That means the squad shouldn't give up until the score reaches 25.

"Siguro, in terms of inside the court, I just want them to see... ako as a player, ayokong bumitaw hangga't di pa umaabot sa 25 points, sa match point," she shared to One Sports in a separate interview after training. "Gusto kong ma-share sa teammates 'yung fighting spirit na nabuo since college pa lang."

[ALSO READ: PVL: New Choco Mucho captain Maddie Madayag wants to earn Flying Titans' respect]

  

What they said

The Choco Mucho recruits all know they have their work cut out for them to master Alinsunurin's system. But it's something they're all intrigued by.

"Nakita ko rin na maganda 'yung system ni coach Dante, kung paano ko sila nakalaro dati. Sobrang chill lang. Parang sa personality ko, pasok 'yung pagka-chill pag naglalaro," Mean Mendrez shared to One Sports after training.

  

For Mars Alba and Royse Tubino, this was perfect timing, as Alinsunurin approached them for quite some time.

"Si Coach Dante, way, way back, sobrang tagal kinukuha ako sa Air Force dati pa talaga. This time gusto ko rin siya ma-try. Sobrang chill, sobrang kalmado mag-coach," Tubino admitted.

  

"Mas na-feel ko sa kanila 'yung gusto ako ng coaches, management and players. Kasi as a player, bihira kang makahanap ng gustong-gusto ka ng coaches eh. 'Yun 'yung isa sa naging factor kung bakit ako nasa Choco Mucho," Alba shared.

  

As for General... it was a much easier task to receive a spike and send it to Sisi rather than absorb an attack from the Cherry Bomb herself.

"Kasi ang hirap niyang kalaban eh! Nag-decide ako, kakampihan ko na lang!" General joked, laughing. "Mahirap, ang daming variation ng palo niya tapos may power din. Maging kakampi na lang kami!"

[ALSO READ: PVL: Why Choco Mucho recruits look up to Sisi Rondina]  

  

Rondina's mindset is a factor on why she's so explosive on the court.

"'Yung pagtatrabaho ko, laging kino-commit ang sarili sa laro, pupunta ng laban na naka-mindset na mananalo," she explained.

It's also a way of giving back to coach Dante.

"Ang galing niya kasi, plinano niya. Nilabas [niya] 'yung tunay na skills na meron kami. Siguro sa pagli-lead din, pinakiya niya 'yung tiwala iya, binigay niya sa amin," Rondina said.

"Namomotivate din kami sa kanya. Nakikita ko 'yung pasensya niya, 'yung tiwala niya sa amin, 'yung grabe mag-guide sa amin. 'Yun 'yung nag-lead sa amin na makapasok sa Finals last year. Sana mabigyan pa namin ng magandang maiper-perform ngayong season."

First bout

The Choco Mucho Flying Titans will take on the Nxled Chameleons on Thursday, February 22, 5 p.m. at the Filoil EcoOil Arena.

It will be aired on One Sports, One Sports+, and the Pilipinas Live app.

(With reports from Lei Macaranas, Mei-lin Lozada)