MANILA, Philippines -- Choco Mucho coach Oliver Almadro could not ask for more from his players after the short-handed Flying Titans fell to a straight sets loss to Creamline on Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With just nine players available, the Flying Titans absorbed a 25-22, 25-14, 25-22 defeat against their sister team to fall to 1-3 in the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference. They are in a must-win situation in their final two matches of the elimination round against PLDT on Thursday and Petro Gazz on Saturday.
Yet afterward, Almadro was all praises for the character displayed by his team. The Flying Titans were without Kat Tolentino, Des Cheng, Cherry Nunag, and Thang Ponce for the contest yet still pushed the Cool Smashers in the first and third sets.
"I like the character of my players," said Almadro. "It's the first time na nababa namin ng 20 lang 'yung errors namin. Imagine kung kailan kaunti pa kami."
"It's a good sign for us," he added. "Creamline is the defending champion [in the Open Conference], and they are the top team ngayon. So seeing my players fight 'til the end and showing their true character, it's one step moving forward."
Caitlyn Viray led the way for Choco Mucho with 12 points, but the Flying Titans could not match the firepower of Creamline. The Cool Smashers unloaded 50 kills, with Tots Carlos firing 25 points. This is the sixth straight time that Choco Mucho has lost to their sister team; they have yet to win a match against the Cool Smashers since joining the PVL in 2019.
Still, Almadro said they have no excuses and will instead shift their focus to this week's matches. The Flying Titans are expected to welcome back the quartet of Tolentino, Cheng, Nunag, and Ponce on Thursday.
Middle blocker Aduke Ogunsanya, who suffered an ACL tear in their match against Army Black Mamba last week, has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
"Like what I've said, we just have to find a way and make a way with what we have," said Almadro. "Do not dwell on the things that we can't control, minimize our errors, focus on the small goals."
"Ang maganda, 'yung tough character na meron sila," he added. "The strong character that they are showing, it's a positive for the team. I hope na naka-inspire pa rin kami ng mga taong naka-suporta at nanonood sa PVL and sa Choco Mucho."
Choco Mucho will need to win their last two matches in order to remain in the hunt for a semifinal spot. Only the top four teams at the end of the eliminations will join guest teams KingWhale Taipei and the Kobe Shinwa Women's University in the next round.
Cignal HD has already secured one of the four spots available for local teams.
"Sabi ko nga, kailangan lang namin ng faith and courage. Kailangan lang namin ng faith sa sarili, faith sa teammates, and faith sa system, faith sa binibigay na talent sa amin, at higit sa lahat maging courageous kami," Almadro said of his team.
"Kailangan maging matapang kami and itong next two games namin, yes it's really a do or die game but sabi ko nga, day by day we will be focusing on the little goals going to the bigger goal which is winning on Thursday and Saturday," he added.