Lady Spikers, Blue Eagles begin title defense in UAAP Season 79 beach volley wars
Kim Fajardo remains as an alternate after winning the beach volley crown for La Salle last season with Cyd Demecillo.

LA Salle begins its quest for a second straight women’s championship when the UAAP Season 79 beach volleyball tournament opens on Saturday at the Sands SM By The Bay.

The Lady Spikers’ Desiree Cheng and Tin Tiamzon will cross paths with Far Eastern University's Bernadeth Pons and Kyla Atienza in a rematch of last season’s finals at 8 a.m., and University of the Philippines’ Diana Carlos and Arielle Estrañero in a midday match.

Cheng and Tiamzon hope to follow-up the feat of their teammates Kim Fajardo and Cyd Demecillo, who powered La Salle it to its first-ever women’s title in the sand court last season.

Fajardo, who also won the Season 78 MVP honors, will be La Salle's third player (alternate) this season.

Among the Lady Spikers’ biggest threats are the Lady Tamaraws pair of Pons and Atienza, who won last week in a one-day tournament at the Cantada Sports Center.

Hoping to regain the title it won two years ago, University of Sto. Tomas will rely again on battle-tested Cherry Rondina and her new partner Jem Gutierrez, while Ateneo will turn to comebacking Michelle Morente and Ria Lo as it vies for the elusive championship.

The Tigresses failed to make it to the Final Four last season, while the Lady Eagles could only muster third place despite having superstar Alyssa Valdez at the helm.

Ateneo and UST will face off at 8:30 a.m, followed by the UP-Adamson University match at 9 a.m. and National University-University of the East tussle at 9:30 a.m.

After the Lady Spikers-Lady Maroons clash to open the afternoon session, the Lady Eagles and the Lady Bulldogs collide at 12:30 p.m., the Lady Tamaraws and the Lady Falcons tackle at 1 p.m. and the Tigresses and the Lady Warriors play at 1:30 p.m.

In the men’s division, Marck Espejo will have Ish Polvorosa as his new partner as Ateneo also goes for back-to-back titles.

The Blue Eagles take on the Growling Tigers in a rematch of last season’s finals series at 10:30 a.m., and the Bulldogs in the afternoon match at 2:30 p.m.

Ateneo bagged its first title last year behind Espejo and Ysay Marasigan, who was named the tournament MVP. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @spinph