MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Cignal HD recovered from a slow start to hand the Choco Mucho Flying Titans their first loss of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Open Conference, Tuesday at the Paco Arena in Manila.
Gel Cayuna pulled the strings on offense as the HD Spikers seized a 20-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 victory to improve to 3-0 in the competition.
With the win, Cignal HD seized the solo lead in Pool A and is now assured of a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. The HD Spikers currently have nine points.
The Flying Titans, meanwhile, suffered their first loss after winning their first two games, including a five-set classic against the defending champions Chery Tiggo Crossovers last Sunday.
"Pinagsabihan lang kami ni Coach Shaq (delos Santos) na hindi kami 'yun," middle blocker Roselyn Doria said of their struggles in the opening set. "Hindi kami 'yun 'yung lumaban ng first set."
"Kaya parang nagising na lang po kami. Lumabas 'yung tunay na laro namin," she added.
The HD Spikers fell behind early and trailed by as much as seven points in the opening set before a late flurry got them within three points, 22-19. But the Flying Titans got clutch hits from Isa Molde and Kat Tolentino to hack out the win.
Choco Mucho also seized an early lead in the second frame, but their errors on attack allowed the HD Spikers to catch up. A mishit from Kat Tolentino gave Cignal HD a 9-8 lead, and the HD Spikers pulled away from there.
With momentum on their side, a confident Cignal HD squad raced to a 16-6 lead in the third set, as their defense frustrated the usually potent Choco Mucho attack. The entry of veteran setter Jem Ferrer gave the Flying Titans a new dynamic on offense, and they were able to get within one point, 20-19, with players like Desiree Cheng and Aduke Ogunsanya contributing. It helped that the HD Spikers began to succumb to their own errors once more.
But Choco Mucho failed to complete their comeback. Ferrer committed back-to-back errors, and Ces Molina came up with clutch attacks before a quick hit by Ria Meneses finished off the Flying Titans.
The HD Spikers pulled away in the middle of Set 4, with Doria scoring three consecutive points -- including a highlight block on Cherry Nunag -- to give her team a 22-12 lead as they cruised to victory.
"Sobrang saya, kasi thankful din ako sa coaches namin, na hindi kami pinapabayaan, ino-overload kami lagi, at siyempre andiyan 'yung tiwala na binibigay sa amin every game," Doria said after earning Player of the Game honors.
The middle blocker finished with a team-high 17 points, including a whopping eight kill blocks. Molina shrugged off an ankle injury suffered in their last game against F2 Logistics to contribute 14 points, and skipper Rachel Anne Daquis had 10 markers.
Cignal HD had a 49-41 lead on kills and a 6-4 advantage on aces, but it was their net defense that made the difference as they tallied 16 kill blocks to just three for the Flying Titans.
Tolentino had 19 points on 18 kills to lead Choco Mucho, but Ogunsanya was the only other Flying Titan in double-digits with 10. Their other wing spikers were ineffective, with Cheng, Isa Molde, and Ponggay Gaston combining for just 11 points.