SUBIC—Sisi Rondina and Jovelyn Gonzaga booked a 22-24, 21-12, 15-12 victory over Genesa Jane “Jen” Eslapor and Floremel Rodriguez in an all-Filipino final of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures that brought the best out of both pairs amid impending injuries.
Cramps started to creep from Rondina’s right leg up her thigh in the entire match and Eslapor called for a five-minute medical timeout in the second set to suppress cramps that rose from her thighs to her abdomen.
Those near misfortunes didn’t spoil an anti-climactic final witnessed by a big crowd at the Subic Bay Sand Court as Rondina carried her Purple team past Eslapor’s stubborn Blue side on Sunday afternoon marked by an occasional overcast sky.
“We were tired…after having gone through the competition, the pressure and the strong opposition,” said Rondina, the most decorated among the four finalists with back-to-back bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Games.
Eslapor came off the medical timeout with four consecutive service aces to push her side closer to Rondina’s, 10-12, in the decider.
Rondina, who was often seen pulling the toes of her right foot upwards to avoid cramps, endured and nailed the match’s last three points for the title.
“I could hardly jump, even during our pre-final training,” said the back-to-back Southeast Asian Games bronze medalist with Bernadeth Pons, who is under rehab for a shoulder injury.
Rondina and Gonzaga—and their final victims—were relieved after the final and in a hurry to go home.
All four had flights booked—Rondina to Cebu, Rodriguez to Negros Occidental and Eslapor to Cagayan de Oro—for Sunday night at Manila’s airport in anticipation of an early exit from the tournament organized by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF).
“Honestly, we never expected this one, all of us,” said Gonzaga, who’s returning to Manila to attend to personal matters—especially her obligations at the Philippine Army—also on Sunday night.
“No party for us,” both said.
A big crowd came to see the final but which team they rooted for was hardly audible. They appreciated both sides who regaled their fans with exciting exchanges and daredevil dives for errant balls.
“Credit to them [Eslapor-Rodriguez pair], they are also good and strong,” said Gonzaga, adding she could now relax and get that deep sleep she was deprived off heading into the tournament.
Eslapor and Rodriguez played with less pressure, too, and treated the final like a mere training session.
“It’s all-Filipino so we went out there playing as if we were just training,” Rodriguez said. “But yes, they gave us a good fight and and we fought hard, too.”
PNVF president Ramon “Tats” Suzara said the 1-2 finish in a Volleyball World event is the best performance by any Philippine team.
“It’s unbelievable, these pairs were formed not a long time ago, but they immediately showed cohesion and winning form on the court,” Suzara said. “The result augurs well for Philippine volleyball and for sure, the PNVF national team program will push toward getting better in the international arena.”
Rondina and Gonzaga booted out Israel’s Yahli Ashush and Anita Dave, 20-22, 21-8, 17-15, while Eslapor and Rodriguez eliminated Japan’s Miyu Sakamoto and Mayu Sawame, 16-21, 28-26, 15-13, in the semifinals played Sunday morning.
Sakamoto and Sawame beat the Israelis, 21-15, 21-18, in the battle for the bronze medal.
Tipjan Pithak and Taovato Poravid beat Kaewsai Dunwinit and Techakijvorak Intuch, 21-15, 21-19, in the all-Thailand men’s final, while Latvia’s Martin Plavins and Mikhail Samoilov downed Thailand’s Jongklang Surin and Nakprakhong Banlue, 21-19, 21-17, to capture the bronze medal.