After a measly 2-6 finish in the first round, the Choco Mucho Flying Titans realized the urgency to make adjustments in their system in order to address both their offensive and defensive shortcomings.
When Bang Pineda made the transition from an open spiker to the team’s defensive ace, it seemed like a gamble for head coach Oliver Almadro as he looked to resuscitate his team’s Final Four chances. With Pineda and Kim Gequillana exchanging roles, all the team had to do was wait and see the results.
Now they can say the gamble has paid off.
The Choco Mucho Flying Titans are making a strong case for a semifinal slot after outlasting Motolite in four sets, 19-25, 25-21, 25-15, 28-26, earlier in the 2019 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference at the Filoil Flying V Center.
After a slow start in the opening set, the Flying Titans soared in the succeeding sets with everyone getting involved in the winning effort, refusing to let Motolite get the best of them anew.
Kat Tolentino led the onslaught for Choco Mucho with 27 points, while Maddie Madayag and Shannen Palec added 15 and 13 respectively.
While the spikers have stolen the headline for the Flying Titans in their four-game winning streak, Pineda has proven to be the team’s unsung hero as she continues to deliver double-double defensive performances, doing it anew as she recorded 33 excellent digs and 21 excellent receives.
Her excellence didn’t go unnoticed by volleyball fans as she trended on Twitter, with fans commending her consistent defensive showing for Choco Mucho.
The 5-foot-6 player has fully embraced her libero role for Choco Mucho, thanking their coaching staff for recognizing where she can heavily contribute for the squad.
“Sabi nga ni coach, kailangan kung ano ‘yung binigay sa’yo, paghirapan mo. Kung hindi mo iyan posisyon at doon ka nilagay, for sure nakikita ng coaches na doon ka makaka-help, kasi hindi naman ibibigay sa’yo iyon kung hindi ka makakatulong din,” she said.
The libero position isn’t new for Pineda, who also played the role for the Petron Blaze Spikers and the United Volleyball Club in the Philippine Superliga.
Meanwhile, Almadro praised both Pineda’s playing versatility and resolve to step up for the Flying Titans knowing the team’s dire need to improve its semifinal chances.
“Sobrang big decision namin ni Bang iyon. Matagal na kaming magkakakilala ni Bang—sabi niya nga, ‘Coach, bahala ka kung saan mo ako gagamitin.’ Ganoon si Bang, sobrang versatile na kahit saan mo ilagay, tatrabahuhin niya iyan,” Almadro said.
“Lahat ng mga bola, sinugod niya—kahit saan pumatak yung bola, nandoon siya. And she has acknowledged it. Noong una, hindi niya makuha system ko, but now she’s acknowledging it,” the head coach added.
While she got praises from her head coach for her consistent performance in the defensive end, Pineda was nothing short of being self-aware as she admitted her own faults in Choco Mucho’s opening set loss against Motolite earlier.
“Na-ace-an ako, hindi ko mabasa ‘yung palo, so sa first set ako talaga ‘yung mali doon—hindi pa ako nagigising e,” Pineda said.
“Nung nilagay na si Dancel sa bench, papalitan na ako, doon na ako nagising na kailangan kong trabahuhin kasi hindi naman kami makakaatake kung walang first ball o walang dig,” she added.
Almadro commended his libero for owning up to her lapses, adding how important it is for athletes to recognize where they went wrong and correcting themselves afterward.
“What’s important for a player is to acknowledge their mistakes and reassure they can do it. It may not be as smooth as possible, but the important part for her is acknowledging it,” the head coach said.
Pineda and the Flying Titans look to clinch their seventh win of the tournament as they face the undefeated Creamline Cool Smashers on Saturday.