PVL: Chery Tiggo gets back at Choco Mucho, forces Game 3

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2021 04:14 PM | Updated as of Aug 09 2021 04:43 PM

Chery Tiggo's Jaja Santiago attacks against the Choco Mucho net defense. PVL Media Bureau.
Chery Tiggo's Jaja Santiago attacks against the Choco Mucho net defense. PVL Media Bureau.

(UPDATED) Jaja Santiago took charge down the stretch to power Chery Tiggo to a straight sets victory over the Choco Mucho Flying Titans in Game 2 of their semifinals series, Monday at the PCV Socio-Civic Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.

The towering Santiago scored the Crossovers' final four points in a 25-18, 25-22, 26-24 triumph over the Flying Titans that knotted their best-of-3 series at one game apiece.

The do-or-die Game 3 is set for Tuesday, still at the Ilocos Norte venue. 

It was a reversal of Game 1, as the Crossovers pounded the Flying Titans from the service line and showed their poise in the clutch in fending off Choco Mucho's comeback attempts.

Santiago led the way for the Crossovers with 13 points built on eight attacks, three aces, and two kill blocks. Older sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat had a game-high 19 points on 16 attacks and three aces, while Mylene Paat contributed 10 markers. 

"Choco Mucho gave us a good fight," said Chery Tiggo coach Aaron Velez. "They're very aggressive. I just want to emphasize to the ladies that they just need to be confident."

"They poured their hearts out for this match," he added.

After a comfortable win in Set 1, the Crossovers appeared to be in cruise control in the second set where they took a 13-5 lead. But the Flying Titans recovered, with Caitlyn Viray providing a boost off the bench. An ace by Ponggay Gaston gave the lead to Choco Mucho, 16-15, and it was a back-and-forth affair from there. 

A service error by Santiago gave the Flying Titans a window of opportunity, 21-20, but they couldn't stop Santiago-Manabat who fired back-to-back hits, before Jasmine Nabor served an ace for a 24-20 count. Kills by Gaston and Kat Tolentino temporarily kept Choco Mucho in the hunt, but Santiago-Manabat got some help from the net as her hit rolled to an empty spot to give Chery Tiggo a two-set advantage.

In a nip-and-tuck third set, Santiago proved to be the difference. Her quick hit gave Chery Tiggo a 23-20 lead, before three straight errors -- a service fault by Paat, and back-to-back attack errors by the Santiago sisters -- knotted the count at 23.

Santiago made up for her earlier miscue with a quick hit that put Chery Tiggo at match point, 24-23, before a kill by Tolentino forced the final deadlock of the game. But Santiago was unstoppable, as she fired another hit from the middle before serving an ace that ensured Chery Tiggo will play for at least one more day. 

"We just have to work harder," Velez said of the do-or-die Game 3. "I think whoever is hungrier, who is more aggressive, might have the advantage."

"We just have to remain focused and take up from where we left off, and continue fighting," he added.

Tolentino was the lone player in double-digits for Choco Mucho, with 14 points. The Flying Titans gave up 10 points off Chery Tiggo's aces, and the Crossovers also had a 44-30 advantage in terms of attacks.