Sisi Rondina and Jovelyn Gonzaga didn’t only eliminate opponents from Canada and the Czech Republic, but more importantly beat the pressure to win at home as they earned a quarterfinal-round seat in the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures at the Subic Bay Sand Court on Friday.
“We just enjoyed the game,” the 26-year-old Rondina, perhaps the country’s most popular beach volleyball player, said. “We did our job — like I focused more on defense and Jov [Gonzaga] on blocks.”
Rondina and Gonzaga, pairing for the first time in a major international competition, beat the taller Darby Dunn and Olivia Grace Furlan of Canada, 21-19, 21-18, in their morning match of the main draw.
They came back two hours later at noon to dispose of Czechs Valerie Dvornikova and Anna Pospisilova, 21-14, 21-16, and keep the country’s campaign alive in the event organized by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation.
“We made adjustments and we approached our assignments one match at a time,” said the former University of Santo Tomas ace Rondina, who won back-to-back Southeast Asian Games bronze medals with Bernadeth Pons.
Rondina was paired with Gonzaga after Pons suffered a shoulder injury. Pons was in the stands cheering the five Philippine teams competing in the event.
For Gonzaga, the pressure came from both the home fans and playing alongside Rondina, where expectations are high for her to level up.
“It was tough because I’m playing with Sisi and the pressure is there for me to step up,” said Gonzaga, an Army personnel who was tabbed to back up Rondina only two weeks ago.
Gonzaga had to level up late in their match against the Czechs when cramps struck Rondina. Fortunately, the match was almost in the bag by then.
PNVF president Ramon “Tats” Suzara, meanwhile, credited Brazilian beach volleyball coach Joao Luciano Kioday, who only came on board more than a week ago but already the national team showed marked improvement.
“They are fighting for every ball,” Luciano said. “I think the short time they have training under me is that they understand what I want. It’s just only the beginning so we focused on a well-organized system of receiving and setting in 10 days. We just did the basic things.”
The other Filipina pair of Genesa Jane Eslapor and Floremel Rodriguez opened their campaign in the main draw with a 21-7, 21-13 victory over Singapore’s Eliza Hong and Zhao Rong Phua, but couldn’t sustain their drive against Israel’s Yahli Ashush and Anita Dave, 13-21, 16-21.
Jude Garcia and Krung Arbasto beat Japan’s Ryoto Sato and Ryo Shindo, 2-0, but later lost to Latvia’s Martin Plavins and Mikhail Samoilov, 19-21, 21-18, 7-15, to bow out of the men’s main draw.
The knockout quarterfinals are set on Saturday.