JOVELYN Gonzaga, the country's most decorated beach volleyball player, is ready to face her biggest battle yet as she competes in the 2016 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Challenge Cup beach volleyball tournament starting Saturday at Sands at SM By the Bay in Mall of Asia.
A former national team member who is unbeaten in a major beach volley tournament so far, Gonzaga will team up with another veteran in Nerissa Bautista for RC Cola-Army in this event sponsored by SM By the Bay, Petron, Foton, Accel, Mikasa, Senoh and Island Rose with TV5 as official broadcast partner.
Despite coming off a two-week break, Gonzaga vowed to bring her fighting form, especially since she will be pitted against a field overflowing with talent and experience.
"It will be a very tough battle," said Gonzaga, who started collecting beach volley crowns as early as 2009 in some commercial tournaments in Boracay.
"Nakikita natin na hindi basta-basta ang mga teams. And we need to work double-time because we just came from a two-week break, so hindi talaga sya madali. All teams are very strong," she added.
Gonzaga noted that the biggest challenge could come from Foton and F2 Logistics.
The Toplander will parade sand specialists Cherry Rondina and Patty Orendain while the Cargo Movers will be bannered by reigning champion Danika Gendrauli with a new partner in Aby Marano, who is already feeling the pressure in what she considered as the most competitive battle in her young beach volley career.
"Ang laki ng pressure, especially since most of them are beach volleyball players talaga," Marano said. "But since I'm teaming up with Danika, nandun ang confidence ko na kaya nya akong madala as a teammate."
Meanwhile, Gendrauli's former partner Norie Jane Diaz will be campaigning for Philippine Navy together with Pau Soriano while Petron XCS will be bringing in the veteran tandem of Bang Pineda and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, making this four-week tourney a wide-open race with no clear-cut favorite.
Other players seeing action are Florence Madulid and Pauline Genido for Philippine Navy-B; Maica Morada and Ces Molina for Petron Sprint 4T; Vhima Condada and Mary Grace Berte for Cignal Team Awesome; Jeannie Delos Reyes and Genie Sabas for RC Cola-Army-B; Aileen Abuel and Princess Listana for Accel Quantum Plus; Jasmine Alcayde and Angelica Dacaymat for UE-Manila; Shaira Hermano and Niella Ramilo for Mapua; Bernadette Pons and Kyla Atienza for FEU-Petron and April Ross Hingpit and Jonafer San Pedro for Meralco.
In the men's side, Madsairi Nur-amin and Roldan Medino will see action for Philippine Navy-A; Pajiji Alsali and Milover Parcon for Philippine Navy-B; Rey and Reylan Taneo for Cignal Team Awesome; Philip Bagalay and Paul John Cuzon for Wayuk; Arjay Salcedo and Bobby Gartidula for IEM; Geric Rodmar Ortega and Ruvince Abrot for UE-Manila; Joshua Barrica and Jude Garcia for FEU-A; Rikko Mamerto and Kevin Hadlocon for FEU-B; and twins Daniel and Tim Young for SM By the Bay.