Choco Mucho and Cignal clash for the last championship berth on Tuesday in a do-or-die that promises to unravel the intricacies of both teams’ prowess and vulnerabilities.
The Flying Titans enter the 6 p.m. match at the Philsports Arena in Pasig with a surge of momentum, having rebounded from a Game One mishap with a straight-set victory over the weekend.
But the HD Spikers have displayed unwavering fighting spirit by overcoming a 0-2 set deficit in the series’ opener, seizing a remarkable win that halted their rivals’ 10-game run in the elims of the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference.
Both are hungry for a finals breakthrough.
Choco Mucho’s best finish in seven previous league stints was two fourth-place finishes while Cignal has placed no higher than third in six PVL conferences.
Choco Mucho coach Dante Alinsunurin recognizes the pivotal need for both rest and rigorous preparation, stressing the importance of addressing issues and implementing necessary adjustments ahead of the sudden death.
“We just had problems in Game 1. We were challenges in our 10 games, I guess we were complacent that time,” Alinsunurin said. “We practiced hard so that we can have better performances in game 2 and 3.”
As they gear up for the decisive match, Choco Mucho’s Sisi Rondina and Kat Tolentino expect to lead the team’s surge the way they did in Game Two with Isa Molde, Maddie Madayag and Cherry Nunag out to provide the needed support and middle Bea de Leon ready to shine after riding the bench the last time out.
“We have to go back to coach Dante Alinsunurin’s game plan, we have to trust it. Our commitment with the team is to go all out in Game 3. We will fight,” said Rondina, who fired 19 points in Game 1 and exploded for 23 points in the next.
“I think for me we have to humble ourselves again, we have to start from the beginning. We’ll celebrate but we have to prepare again [for Game 3] because Cignal will come back with even more fire,” said Tolentino, who scored 31 points in the first two games of the series. “I think the team that’s complacent will always be at a disadvantage and I think that’s what happened (in Game 1). We have to keep that fire alive and just continue to be humble with our skills and go back to coach Dante’s system.”
The former Ateneo stalwart said reaching the finals would definitely be one of her career highlights. “It’s a big accomplishment especially in the pros and I’ve been with this team since the beginning so it will definitely be such a memorable accomplishment if it happens,” added Tolentino.
But Cignal remains resolute, aiming to elevate their net and floor defense to neutralize the Flying Titans’ vaunted offense.
Vanie Gandler is also raring to bounce back from a paltry five-point output in Game Two after a commanding 17-point showing in the first game. Ces Molina, Jove Gonzaga, Riri Meneses and Roselyn Doria are also set to showcase their experience and skills in an attempt to counter-balance their opponent’s firepower.
Focus will also be on the two teams’ top playmakers with Choco Mucho’s Deanna Wong and Cignal’s Gel Cayuna, whose ability to involve hitters and middles while executing strategic plays will be crucial in determining the outcome of their showdown.
The winner, however, will face a tougher challenge as it faces reigning defending champion Creamline, a team that awaits, well-rested after putting away Chery Tiggo in two in their side of the semis playoff.
Games in the tournament, backed by Bola.TV, Beyond Active Wear, ASICS and Mikasa, can be streamed live on PVL.ph and Pilipinas Live and telecast on OneSports and OneSportsPlus.