FORTY-EIGHT qualification matches scheduled over 10 hours usher in on Thursday a Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour (BPT) Challenge Philippine leg at Nuvali that is bursting at the seams with the host Philippine National Volleyball League (PNVF) needing at least five hotels in and out of Santa Rosa City to billet athletes and officials.
“It’s the biggest beach volleyball competition the country has ever hosted,” PNVF president Ramon “Tats” Suzara said on Wednesday. “It’s the biggest and most prestigious with Olympic and world champions and top-ranked athletes converging in Nuvali.”
There are 16 teams each in the men and women main draw and the qualifiers alone, according to Suzara, have 32 teams for each gender representing more than 30 countries.
Dozens other teams in both genders are also in town as reserves in the tournament supported by gold sponsors Ayala Land, Mikasa, Senoh, Philippine Sports Commission, Pinay In Action and Smart as gold sponsors and PLDT, Gatorade, Maynilad, Rebisco, Ayala Malls, Department of Tourism, CBPI, Club Laiya, Foton as bronze sponsors.
Nuvali, through Ayala Land, built four world-class and FIVB-standard sand courts and one practice court on a sprawling area fronting Landers.
Hotels within the Nuvali area have overflowed that the PNVF had to book participants in hotels in Silang, Alabang and Batangas.
The qualification matches on Thursday start simultaneously in all four newly-built courts at 8 p.m. with the last matches set for 6 p.m.
The main draw proceeds Friday with simultaneous matches serving at 9 a.m. with the day’s competitions ending with 9 p.m. matches.
Teams have tested the courts in training since last Tuesday, including the Philipine squads coached by Brazilian Jao Luciano Kiodai.
“We’re going to expect the best of the bests here,” Kiodai said. “But the most important here is to introduce to the Philippines the high level of beach volleyball. It’s going to be hard, but the process is much more important than the results we are going to have,” said Kiodai, who’s been handling the national squads for a year now.
Jovelyn Gonzaga and Sisi Rondina won the gold medal last year in Subic but the duo already reverted to indoor volleyball, handing the mantle to veterans Jen Eslapor and Floremel Rodriguez and national team first-timers Sofiah Pagara and Khylem Progella.
Kiodai set potent expectations for the nationals.
“We already showed in the last Asian Games that we can play in the world and play the best we can,” he said, referring to last year’s Future finalist Eslapor and Rodriguez, who posted a Philippine-best fifth place finish in Asiad beach volleyball in Hangzhou.
The Philippine men’s teams are Ran Abdilla and Jeron Requinton, Anthony Arbasto and Alche Gupiteo and the veteran pair of James Buytrago and Rancel Varga.