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Tiebreaker Times

Beach Volleyball

PSL’s Queens and Kings of the sand set to be crowned

The heated battle on the sand finally reaches its climax as four teams clash for the elusive crown in the 2016 Philippine Superliga Challenge Cup beach volleyball tournament today at the SM By the Bay in Mall of Asia.

RC Cola-Army A’s Jovelyn Gonzaga and Nene Bautista will take on Bang Pineda and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas of Petron XCS at 11:15 am while Lady Tamaraws Bernadette Pons and Kyla Atienza will battle Cherry Rondina and Patty Orendain of Foton at 12:15 pm in the women’s division semifinals.

The survivors will then clash in the winner-take-all finals showdown of this prestigious tourney set at 5:30 pm and will be aired live over at Sports 5.

Meanwhile, in the men’s division, Philippine Navy B will tangle with TVM at 9:00 am while Philippine Navy A clashes with FEU-A at 9:45 am in the semifinals with the winners advancing to the men’s division finals scheduled at 3:15 pm.

After breezing through the group stages, including a convincing 21-12, 21-14 victory over Petron Sprint 4T in the quarterfinals, Gonzaga and Bautista are heavily tipped to coast all the way to the crown after displaying a deadly brew of talent, skills and experience.

Former national team member Gonzaga, for one, is considered as the country’s best beach volleyball player after winning the title in all her major tournaments. But the semifinals will not be a walk in the park as she will be stacked against an equally dangerous foe in former UAAP beach volley queen Pineda and Maizo-Pontillas – her partner when she donned the national colors during the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia.

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“Since we already played together in the national team, she already has an idea on how to compete against me,” said Gonzaga. “Beach volleyball is more of a mind game where experience plays a crucial role. We have to be two steps ahead of them for us to win.”

True enough, Petron XCS is also a serious contender.

The Tri-Activ Spikers, in fact, displayed its deadly form in the quarterfinals when they downed reigning champion Danika Gendrauli and Aby Marano of F2 Logistics, 21-17, 21-16, much to the delight of a large weekend crowd that trooped to the venue to witness the country’s best sand warriors in action.

“But it’s nothing if we don’t win the crown,” said Pineda, a noted floor defense specialist. “We have to be at our best against them. They are experienced and very talented. We have to prepare and train hard to beat them.”

Also expected to generate attention is the battle between the young guns in Pons and Atienza of Petron-FEU and Rondina and Orendain of Foton.

Although Pons and Atienza have the ceiling, Rondina and Orendain are still favored as their aggressive style of attack blends perfectly with their airtight defense.

“It’s hard to predict,” said Rondina, a prized beach volley specialist in Cebu before joining University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP. “We’ll just work hard and do the little things that made us successful in the past.”

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