PVL: Choco Mucho defuses Akari to give Alinsunurin a winning start

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2023 05:59 PM | Updated as of Feb 17 2023 11:50 AM

Choco Mucho celebrates after scoring against Akari in the PVL All-Filipino Conference. PVL Media.
Choco Mucho celebrates after scoring against Akari in the PVL All-Filipino Conference. PVL Media.

MANILA (UPDATED) - Choco Mucho gave Dante Alinsunurin a winning debut in the Premier Volleyball League as they swept Akari to open their campaign in the All-Filipino Conference, Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Flying Titans set the tone with a comfortable win in the first set en route to a 25-15, 25-20, 25-20 result. They completed the victory in just an hour and 29 minutes, with a crowd of 9,819 fans in attendance at the Big Dome.

After cruising in the opening set, the Flying Titans displayed their poise in the second and third frames where they overturned the Chargers' advantage to snatch the lead. 

It made for a triumphant debut for Alinsunurin, the former men's national team coach who took over for Choco Mucho in early January. This is Alinsurin's first foray in professional women's volleyball.

Four players scored in double-digits for Choco Mucho, but it was Maddie Madayag who shone brightest in her first full match since suffering an ACL injury in the 2021 PVL Open Conference in August 2021. The middle blocker had 11 points on nine kills, one block, and one ace, while Kat Tolentino scored all of her 11 points on attacks. 

Bea de Leon also had 11 points, and Isa Molde added 10 markers. The Flying Titans had a 5-0 lead in blocks, and committed just 11 errors to Akari's 23.

"Sobrang saya sa naging panalo namin," said Alinsunurin of their result. "Ngayon, kinikilabutan parin ako dahil sa siguro first time ko na nanalo ngayon sa PVL kaya sobrang ngayon, ramdam na ramdam ko pa yung pagkapanalo namin."

After a big win in the opening set, the Flying Titans needed to recover in the second period where they trailed most of the way before getting their rhythm after the second technical timeout. Akari led 16-14, but Choco Mucho won seven of the next eight points, a run capped by Madayag's dunk of an overpassed ball. 

Molde put the Flying Titans at set point, 24-19, before Trisha Genesis briefly kept Akari alive with a crosscourt hit. But Deanna Wong saw an opening in the final rally of Set 2, and her 1-2 play put Choco Mucho a 2-0 advantage.

Madayag keyed the 7-1 run in the third set that turned a slim 14-13 Akari lead into a 20-15 advantage for the Flying Titans. The middle blocker punctuated the run with an ace, putting Choco Mucho firmly in control. Tolentino's off-the-block hit put them at match point, 24-19, though Dindin Santiago-Manabat saved one for the Chargers with a crosscourt kill.

But Tolentino was unstoppable, as the former Ateneo star fired a down-the-line kill to wrap up the match. 

Santiago-Manabat, in her Akari debut, had 17 points on 16 kills and an ace. But Janine Marciano was the only other Akari player in double-digits, with 12 points, all on attacks.