After two perfect title runs in two years for Bernadeth Pons and Cherry Rondina of Petron XCS, the duo can say that ruling the Philippine Superliga Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup is not a walk in a park.
Just like last year, Pons and Rondina swept the Challenge Cup in dominant fashion, making a short work of DM Demontano and Jackie Estoquia of Sta. Lucia A, 21-8, 21-11, in the winner-take-all Finals on Sunday at the Sands By the Bay in Mall of Asia.
Another perfect year.
But for two of the top beach volleyball stars in the country, it was not easy to win it all this year. Lack of practice at Sands By the Bay, the summer heat, and a tougher field were the problems faced by the defending champions.
“First game pa lang hirap na kami. Sobrang init, alas dos ‘yung laro, tapos hindi pa kami nagtre-training dito,” said Rondina, who practiced with Pons at the University of Santo Tomas campus. “Mabibilis yung Sta. Lucia. We respect rin naman sila at kahit sinong nakalaban.
“Siyempre kung sila gusto manalo, what more pa kami. Ayun, what we did is naglaro kami ng si Pons talaga.”
Pons, who was fresh from a UAAP Season 80 Finals heartbreak, said that their opponents this season were more experienced and quicker beach volleyball players.
“Nahirapan naman talaga kami kasi competitive ‘yung mga kalaban mabibilis,” Pons reflected. “So ginawa lang talaga namin ginusto lang namin manalo yung bawat makakalaban namin ginusto namin talunin.
“Ito ‘yung naging result.”
Despite laboring for every point, every set, and every win, the perfect combination of the former rivals in UAAP Beach Volleyball remained unstoppable.
Rondina and Pons swept the pool stage, beating Fiola Ceballos and Patty Orendain of Generika Ayala A, 19-21, 21-14, 15-8, and Danika Gendrauli and Nene Bautista of Cocolife A, 21-19, 21-10.
Petron XCS next ousted Jonah Sabeta and Bianca Lizares of Sta. Lucia B, 21-5, 21-11, in the knockout quarterfinals, before the reigning queens booked a return trip to the finals after beating Orendain and Ceballos again, 21-9, 21-16, in the semifinals.
For Rondina and Pons, the key to another dominant year is that their perfect partnership is like a match made in heaven.
“Amazing. Taong buhangin din kasi si Pons, laking buhangin,” Rondina quipped. “Ang magandang factor kasi ni Pons ‘yung goal niya is manalo and I have goals din na gusto manalo.
“Parang nagtutugma ‘yung goals namin kaya doon kami masyado nagco-connect kasi ‘yung kagustuhan namin manalo, ‘yung kagustuhan mag-champion and ‘yung kagustuhan namin may output yung kapaguran namin.”
“Si Sisi kasi as a partner sobrang madadala ka talaga sa kanya kasi kita mo naman hindi talaga tumitigil sa galaw so parang every point gusto niya talagang mapuntos,” Pons expressed. “So sobrang nakakadala siya sa loob kahit pagod ka na, go pa din kasi yung kasama mo lumalaban.
“Go lang ng go hangga’t hindi pa natatapos.”
With both still young, a trifecta could be in store for the highly-regarded duo come next year.