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Choco Mucho bows to Nakhon Ratchasima to open Asian Club Championship stint

Choco Mucho came up short against the host squad. Eddy Phongphakthana/AVC
By Dugout Philippines

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand--The Philippines’ Choco Mucho gave Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima QminC VC a second set scare before dropping an 11-25, 26-28, 17-25 decision to set in motion its 21st Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship campaign at the Terminal 21 competition hall on Friday.

One of two Philippine clubs fielded in the continental tournament, Choco Mucho was in a getting-to-know stage in the first set and struggled with its reception and first ball.

After losing the opener by a mile, Choco Mucho made a major overhaul in its rotation in the second set, with national team debutant setter Deanna Wong and opposite spiker Mylene Paat entering the match to compliment Kalei Mau.

Mau’s spike brought Choco Mucho to set point, 24-22, but the Filipino-American open hitter, who flew in from the US on Wednesday, committed two straight errors and Nakhon scored on an attack to put the hosts ahead at 25-24.

Choco Mucho reached set point once more courtesy of Paat’s left-handed kill, 26-25, but could not close out as Nakhon scored three straight points capped by Kuttika Kaewpin to gain a 2-0 set lead.

The Philippine side, whose participation in the tournament is backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, Rebisco, Taguig City, and Asics, never got the momentum from the close second set setback as the Thais took care of business in the third set to claim their first win in Pool A.

Playing for the first time since switching federations from the US to the Philippine National Volleyball Federation, Mau stepped up and adjusted quickly to contribute to the team.

“Kalei’s getting into the groove. After four days of traveling, she is pushing herself and she is trying to channel her energy to the team early on,” Choco Mucho coach Odjie Mamon said.

A four-time Thailand League winner, Nakhon is led by national team mainstays Nootsara Tomkom and Chatchu-on Moksri, who are popular for Filipino fans along with former Philippine club league imports Lek Thipachot and Kuttika Kaewpin.

Nootsara and Chatchu-on were part of the Thailand squad that won its 12th consecutive Southeast Asian Games gold medal in Manila in 2019.

Choco Mucho hopes to regroup and end its Pool A stint on a positive note against debuting Zhetyssu of Kazakhstan at 1:30 p.m. (Manila time) Saturday. A win will give Choco Mucho a shot at finishing second in its group.

Captain Iris Tolenada remained positive that Choco Mucho will learn a lot from the opening-day setback.

“The good thing about this being the first match is that we can learn from it, we watch the video and we’re just going to keep learning along,” Tolenada said.

Choco Mucho had to give up Kianna Dy and Majoy Baron to Rebisco after four of its players have not yet completed their health requirements to play in the tournament.

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