Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons left everything on the sand court before bowing to Japan’s Sakurako Fujii and Minori Kumada, 17-21, 19-21, ending the Philippines’ campaign in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Boracay Open presented by Globe Saturday at the White House Beach Station 1.
The duo matched the country’s best Beach World Tour finish of fifth place in the Manila Open 1-star last year with Rondina and Dzi Gervacio. Incidentally, Sakurako was the one that eliminated Rondina and Gervacio with Shinako Tanaka.
“We are still grateful na naging kalaban namin sila. Nag-gain kami ng experience,” said Rondina.
Rondina and Pons finished their international debut as partners with two victories. They pulled off a dominant 21-18, 21-6 win over Ekaterina Filina and Ekaterina Zazhigina of Russia to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals, after losing to Japan’s Satono Ishitsubo and Asami Shiba, 16-21, 19-21, earlier in the day.
“Hindi kami lumayo. Hindi kami tinalo na bugbog kami. Nakita naman na kaya namin. Kailangang mahabang preparations at ma-expose sa international tournaments,” said Pons.
Sakurako and Minori, who have paired for six tournaments this year, were pushed to the limit against Rondina and Pons, the highly-popular Filipina pair who reunited in the four-day tournament organized by the Beach Volleyball Republic.
“Rondina was tough,” said Sakurako. “She improved her defense. I remember last year, she was good in digging. She also improved in receiving.”
“Isang karangalan, siyempre Japanese ang nagsabi. Kapag beach volleyball ng Japan, iba. Isang karangalan na ma-appreciate ng Japan ang ginalaw namin,” said Rondina, a four-time UAAP beach volleyball MVP while playing for UST.
The Japanese were still able to progress to Sunday’s semifinals despite the loud cheers for the Rondina-Pons tandem by the home crowd.
“Everybody was cheering for the Philippines. But we just focused in our game,” said Sakurako.
Rondina and Pons then became the last Filipina team standing after Bea Tan and Dij Rodriguez bowed to reigning two-time Asian U21 champions Pawarun Chanthawichai and Thatsarida Singchuea of Thailand, 12-21, 12-21, in the other Round of 12 duel.
Playing like a well-oiled machine, Tan and Rodriguez cruised to a 21-7, 21-15 win over Malaysia’s Tan Hsi Yan and Tasha Mae, in the morning session to give the Philippines another slot in the Round of 12.
Jackie Estoquia and DM Demontaño dropped a heartbreaking 14-21, 21-19, 13-15 loss to Filina and Zazhigina in the final pool match that eliminated the Iloilo tandem.
Leaving behind a painful 21-17, 13-21, 14-16 loss to Singapore’s Eliza Chong and Lau Ee Shan in last Friday’s opener, Tan and Rodriguez were in the zone on both ends of the sand court to send the Malaysians packing, while keeping the three-time Beach Volleyball Republic On Tour champions in the competition.
Rondina and Pons went toe to toe with world No. 86 Ishitsubo and Shiba in both sets, but the Japanese were simply too classy to remain undefeated.
Rondina and Pons opened their campaign with a 21-14, 21-8 conference of Japan’s Shinako Tanaka and Miyuki Matsumura on Friday.
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