With the heavyweights struggling early, the PLDT Home Ultera-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup 2015 powered by Smart Live More promises to be an explosive affair when it enters its second day of competition this weekend at the Sands By the Bay in SM Mall of Asia.
Pre-tournament favorite Michelle Laborte and Cha Cruz of Cignal HD Spikers A tumbled when it suffered a straight-set loss to the hungrier, more aggressive tandem of Danica Gendrauli and Norie Diaz of Gilligan’s in the featured battle that was aired live over TV5 with Accel as official outfitter, Sands By the Bay as venue partner and Maynilad as official water provider.
Moments later, the duo of Alexa Micek and Fille Cayetano of Sprint 4T fell to a more prepared team of Bea Tan and Pau Soriano of Foton Hurricane while crowd darlings Charo Soriano and Gretchen Ho of Petron XCS also sustained a straight-set humiliation from the hands of April Ross Hingpit and Wensh Tiu of Cignal HD Spikers B.
PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara said the opening-day setbacks serve as a strong testament of the depth and competitiveness of this tournament organized by Sports Core. “It goes to show how balanced and competitive this tournament is,” said Suzara, a ranking member of the Asian Volleyball Confederation and International Volleyball Federation. “This is a kill-or-be killed tournament with only the toughest team set to survive. This is not designed to be a walk-in-the park for the heavyweight teams.”
A bronze medalist in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in Manila, Laborte is heavily tipped to dominate the field after being partnered with another skilled spiker in Cruz. But things didn’t go according to plan as Gendrauli — a beach volleyball sensation for Southwestern University in the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. (Cesafi) — and Diaz came out with a strong start and an even stronger finish that left Laborte and Cruz struggling for form.
The same thing happened to Micek and Cayetano of reigning PSL All-Filipino Conference champion Petron as Tan and Soriano marched to the game with fire in their eyes.
“Errors, erros and more errors; that’s the story of the game,” said Micek, a Filipino-American who drew the largest cheers from the large weekend crowd for her deadly brew of beauty, skills and power.
“But this is still far from over. We can still redeem ourselves. We will train hard and come back stronger next game.”
While Cignal HD Spikers B of Hingpit and Tiu are already safely in the quarterfinals after demolishing Aurora Tripoli and Rochet Dela Paz of Accel Quantum Plus B Perpetual Molino in the latter game, Cignal HD Spikers A can still punch a ticket to the next round if they prevail over Petron Sprint 4T and Foton Hurricane.
For their part, Micek and Cayetano must beat Gilligan’s while Soriano and Ho must overcome Accel Quantum Plus B Perpetual Molino in a separate encounter to remain in the hunt for the prestigious title of becoming the inaugural PSL beach volleyball champion.