BACARRA, Ilocos Norte — Kat Tolentino felt great to be back on the court and to be reunited with Ateneo teammates in Choco Mucho’s campaign in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference.
A year after her final UAAP playing year got wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic, Tolentino embarked on a new mission, leading the Flying Titans in the first professional volleyball league in the country.
The 6-foot-3 opposite spiker dropped 18 points as Choco Mucho made a rousing debut with a 28-26, 10-25, 27-25, 25-11 win over PLDT on Wednesday at the PCV Socio-Civic and Cultural Center.
“It was nice to be back on the court. I think the team showed a lot of heart. I’m just thankful that we were able to get a win in the end,” Tolentino said.
But more than making her on-court return from a year-long inactivity, the Fil-Canadian hitter is glad to have the core of their UAAP Season 81 championship run with setter Deanna Wong and spiker Ponggay Gaston turning pro to join her, Bea de Leon, Maddie Madayag, and Kim Gequillana.
“I think it’s just nice to have the Ateneo core with this team. It’s definitely an advantage because we know coach O’s system but we still have a lot of things to fix,” she said. “We’re still adjusting so I think soon, hopefully, we’ll be able to really get the Ateneo system that Coach O has instilled in us and look forward to the future games.”
That's on top of the maturity and leadership of libero Denden Lazaro-Revilla and the aggressiveness of Wong.
Choco Mucho head coach Oliver Almadro is elated with his new recruits who can help his team improve their previous seventh-place finish with a 6-10 record in the 2019 Open Conference.
“Ito yung kulang namin. So we really hope na yung addition nila, magspark din talaga kung ano yung Titan pride. But hindi kami pwedeng maging complacent,” Almadro said. “I’m happy naman sa pagdating nila Deanna lalo na si Den, yung maturity ni Den, and then yung aggressiveness ni Deanna we really need it.”
Tolenino agreed their new players are definitely huge factors in this challenging bubble conference, where all teams beefed up their respective rosters.
“They really fulfilled their role as we trained in the bubble they really know their role and I’m just thankful that they’re very accepting and they are very fun to be around,” she said. “They bring so much energy to the team and we’re very lucky to have them.”
After two of their games were shelved, Tolentino is happy to finally return to action and she hopes all their sacrifices in these trying times will be worth it.
“The team has prepared not just in the bubble but during the whole pandemic. We really sacrificed a lot and I know a lot of teams had. Hopefully, we can transfer that to the court and continue to show how hard we work,” she said.
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