Philippines ‘beach’ pair gets the boot

BORACAY – Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons put up a valiant stand 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 yesterday at the White House Beach Station 1 here.

The country matched its 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 who eliminated Rondina and Gervacio with Shinako Tanaka.

Sakurako and Minori, who have paired for six tournaments this year, were really pushed to the limit by Rondina and Pons, the highly-popular Filipina pair who reunited despite only having short preparations for the four-day tournament.

“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 University of Santo Tomas.

“We are still grateful na naging kalaban namin sila. Nag-gain kami ng experience,” she added.

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.

The Japanese were still able to progress to today’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.