EXPECT a tough, competitive battle to the title when the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Challenge Cup beach volleyball tournament kicks off Saturday at the Sands at SM By the Bay in Mall of Asia.
Decorated tandems of Jovelyn Gonzaga and Nene Bautista of RC Cola-Army A, Cherry Rondina and Patty Orendain of Foton, Danika Gendrauli and Aby Marano of F2 Logistics, Bang Pineda and Aiza Pontillas of Petron XCS, and Maica Morada and Frances Molina of Petron Sprint 4T are all expected to go all out for pride and glory when the tournament opens at 7:30 a.m.
RC Cola-Army B will tip things off as it battles UE-Manila followed by matches between Petron Sprint 4T and Standard Navy Insurance-B; Foton and Accel Quantum Plus; Meralco and FEU-Petron; Petron XCS and Mapua; Standard Navy Insurance A and RC Cola-Army B; Meralco and Cignal Team Awesome.
FEU-Petron will hit the sand again in the afternoon as it faces Gonzaga and Bautista of RC Cola-Army A, while F2 Logistics battles Petron Sprint 4T; Foton faces Mapua; Accel Quantum Plus tangles with Petron XCS; and RC Cola-Army A collides with Cignal Team Awesome.
Afternoon games of this prestigious tourney bankrolled by Sands at SM By the Bay, Petron, Foton, Accel, Mikasa, Senoh and Island Rose will be aired live by its official broadcast partner TV5 and will be livestreamed over Sports5.ph.
Gonzaga, arguably the winngest beach volleyball player in the country, said this could be her toughest battle as she faces off against the reigning champion in Gendrauli, proven floor specialist in Pineda, and queens of the sand from the Visayas in Rondina and Orendain.
Gendrauli, for one, will be parading a new teammate in Marano -- a former UAAP MVP who is making the transition from the indoor to the outdoor.
Pineda also has an able partner in Pontillas, a lefty attacker who is good at place shots and drop balls, making Petron XCS one of the deadliest teams in the second edition of this annual battle.
"It's really a tough battle, everybody is capable of winning," said Gonzaga, who also represented the country in various international beach volley tournaments. "That's why we have to work double time because all our opponents are very good. We can't afford to be complacent against them."
Marano stressed that she knows what's ahead and she will do everything to help Gendrauli defend the crown, which she won with Diaz while donning the colors of Gilligan's.
"There's pressure for me to deliver, especially knowing that Danika also wants to defend her title," Marano said. "That's why I'm really preparing for this. This is a big challenge and I'm ready for it."
Meanwhile, men's division is set to unwrap next week.