MANILA, Philippines -- The Choco Mucho Flying Titans believe they passed a test of character in hacking out a thrilling five-set win against the Chery Tiggo Crossovers on Sunday night.
Matched up against the defending champions -- and the team that eliminated them in the previous season of the Premier Volleyball League -- the Flying Titans came away with a 25-21, 16-25, 25-17, 17-25, 18-16 triumph.
With the result, they improved to 2-0 in the PVL Open Conference to earn a share of the lead in Pool A.
"It's a test of character again for us, and it's a test of our faith," Choco Mucho coach Oliver Almadro said of the game. "We really have to believe in the system, believe in ourselves, and believe in the team."
Kat Tolentino fired 23 points, including 19 kills, and scored three consecutive points in the fifth set to bring the Flying Titans back in the fight after falling behind, 13-11.
Veteran middle blocker Bea de Leon, brought back in the fifth set after being benched in the third and fourth, also delivered clutch hits before back-to-back errors by the Crossovers wrapped up the win for Choco Mucho.
Tolentino took pride in the fight shown by their team, noting that it was an impressive effort for a squad that is still working on its chemistry. Choco Mucho had added key pieces to their roster in the offseason, including Aduke Ogunsanya and Desiree Cheng who both came up big in the win against Chery Tiggo.
"Knowing this team, we are new, and we have a lot of new players coming in," said Tolentino, who had four kill blocks. "But it showed our character on the court."
"We really worked together. As in, I felt everyone contributing. Anyone coach put in, they contributed," she added. "I'm just so thankful that I could trust my teammates. I could look at them during the set and know that they had my back, and I had theirs."
Tolentino stressed that it a team effort led to their win, and Almadro also hailed the composure showed by his players even after squandering a one-set lead twice and falling behind in a crucial juncture of the deciding frame.
"Sobrang hirap ng game," said Almadro. "Luckily lang na Kat delivered, and we delivered at the right time."
"I'm always telling them, you will make the point at the right time. No matter what, if you make 30 or 40 points, as long as you do it at the right time, malaking bagay 'yun," he added. "We started it right, and we ended it right."
Up next for the Flying Titans is a showdown against the similarly unbeaten Cignal HD Spikers, who are also brimming with confidence after shocking powerhouse F2 Logistics on Sunday.
Tolentino is optimistic that they can build on their triumph against the Crossovers when they take on Cignal HD.
"It's definitely a confidence-booster for the team. It really shows how our chemistry is slowly getting there," she said. "We're working together, and we're really trying our best to work with one another. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and from that game it's really teamwork that won us that game."