THE UST Lady Spikers bagged their back-to-back championship titles after sweeping the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws in the UAAP Season 80 beach volleyball tournament at the SM Sands by the Bay last Oct. 14.
But the Tiger Spikers were dethroned by the National University Bulldogs.
Three-time women’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Cherry Ann Rondina and Season 79 Rookie of the Year Caitlyn Viray handily defeated FEU’s veteran duo of Bernadeth Pons and Kyla Atienza in Game 2 of the finals, 21-15, 21-19, to cap their undefeated campaign.
The Rondina-Viray tandem defeated an FEU team handled by former UST beach volleyball head coach Emil Lontoc.
The Lady Spikers overcame a six-point deficit in the second set of Game 2 with eight unanswered points, sealed by Pons’ attack error for the win.
“Simula noong day one, alam na namin kung sino kakalabanin namin sa dulo. Hinimay namin `yung gagawin nilang technique,” second-year head coach Paul Jan Doloiras said.
The Lady Spikers barely had enough preparation after Rondina’s Season 79 teammate Jem Gutierrez opted out of the season to enlist in the Philippine Army.
Rondina bagged her third championship and MVP award in four years, with three different partners.
She won her first title with Rica Jane Rivera in 2014, and secured it again in 2016 with Gutierrez.
“Ine-enjoy ko lang ang laro at malaki ang pagtitiwala ko sa partner ko. Lagi ko pinapakita sa kanya kung gaano ka-importante ang liga na ito,” Rondina said.
Caitlyn Viray stood out in Game 2 with 18 points while Rondina chalked up 10 markers.
The Lady Spikers are the winningest UAAP beach volleyball team with five crowns.
In men’s play, the Tiger Spikers could not build on their Game 1 victory and surrendered to the National University (NU) Bulldogs in Game 3, 16-21, 21-14, 15-13.
In their do-or-die game, Tiger Spiker Anthony Arbasto tried to keep it close after a through-the-block hit, 14-13, but Bulldog Bryan Bagunas’ quick kill effectively dethroned UST.
NU is now the winningest men’s beach volleyball team with four championships. UST is tied with FEU with three crowns.
Arbasto had 20 points while Kris Roy Guzman tallied 14 points in his last UAAP beach volleyball game.
“Pumikit lang kami sa bandang dulo kaya nag-lapse kami. Pero masaya kami kasi `yung laro, larong walang pinagsisisihan,” Doloiras said.
Guzman finished his UAAP career with one championship and four runner-up finishes, three of them against the Bulldogs.
With Guzman exhausting his playing years, Doloiras said high school standout Jaron Requinton was being eyed as a replacement.