SUBIC—Sisi Rondina and Jovelyn Gonzaga toppled a well-toured pair from Israel and so did Genesa Jane “Jen” Eslapor and Floremel Rodriguez over a similarly world-class tandem from Japan to arrange an all-Filipino final in the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures on Sunday morning at the Subic Bay Sand Court.
Rondina and Gonzaga squandered a six-point lead in losing the first set but came back all pumped up by an ever-supportive crowd to bundle out Israelis Yahli Ashush and Anita Dave, 20-22, 21-8, 17-15, in their semifinal duel.
Eslapor and Rodriguez took the court immediately after and as if dictated by fate, they also lost the first set, won the second and gave the crowd a thriller of a decider before assuring the gold and silver are planted on Subic’s sand via a 16-21, 28-26, 15-13 stunner over Japanese Miyu Sakamoto and Mayu Sawame.
With that win over Sakamoto and Sawame, Espalor and Rodriguez emerged as the tournament’s Japanese killers.
“Three Japanese teams, those are what we beat here,” the duo said, almost in unison. “Turned out we’ve become their [Japanese] conquerors.”
“It was worth it!” exclaimed Rondina and Gonzaga in the Mixed Zone interview as they exuded an aura of relief, satisfaction and triumph for advancing to the best finish a Philippine team will book in a major international beach volleyball tournament.
Ramon “Tats” Suzara, president of the organizing Philippine National Volleyball Federation, could hardly mince words on the sealed 1-2 Philippine finish.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Suzara said. “These pairs were formed not a long time ago, but they immediately showed cohesion and winning form on the court.”
Both pairs started practicing for the event only two weeks ago, with noted Brazilian Joao Luciano Kioday joining the team just 10 days before the competition.