12:06 a.m. Friday marked the end of Day 1 of the UAAP Beach Volleyball Tournament over at Sands, SM by the Bay.
It has been 10 years since the event was officially included in the UAAP, only after being a demo sport back in Season 69. The first-ever champions was FEU in both men’s and women’s divisions. The Morayta powerhouse was represented by Wendy Ann Semana, the season’s MVP, her partner Shaira Gonzales, who bagged the Rookie of the Year award, Joshua Alcarde, who also won the MVP award and his teammate, Jerry Mabutol. A quite similar ending happened last season as both championship titles were won by one university —this time going to España—courtesy of the tandem of Cherry Ann Rondina, who won her second MVP award on the sand and Jem Gutierrez, and MVP KR Guzman with partner Anthony Arbasto.
Since its introduction, beach volleyball has been held in the UE Caloocan grounds. It was the perfect venue that made this event an intimate one, as only the players, coaches and family members were allowed in the venue. They would take turns to sit on the 40-seater bleacher, depending whether their team is up next. The sport eventually moved to Pasay City since Season 78 when Sands by the Bay opened its door to hosting the collegiate tournament. The new venue made it possible for a lot of fans to watch the games comfortably, sunny day or not.
You were probably wondering how the games during the Thursday-opening day ended so late? This year, the UAAP Board decided to start the games at 3 p.m. so that athletes could avoid playing under the unforgiving sun. It is quite ironic though that a beach sport would be moved due to this purpose. It takes the essence out of the game, which makes it a whole different sport from the more-familiar indoor volleyball. One has to consider a factor not just playing on the sand, but also the sun, wind, and sometimes the rain. I was able to ask some of the coaches and they agreed that the scheduling of the games could have been planned better. Starting the game mid-afternoon also opens up to the possibility of ending too late, which did happen on opening day. The schedule also made the women’s teams, who played first in the afternoon, wait too long for their turn, which came late in the evening.
And speaking of how beach is a whole different sport from indoor, it was interesting to witness how fans were expecting the women’s teams of La Salle and Ateneo — the ones who dominated last year’s indoor volleyball season, to easily dominate the sand court. Given that the players from both squads are fairly new to the sport and that they’ve lost their first games at the hands of first and second placers of the beach tourney last year, this could be a good way to introduce the sport to the loyal fans of indoor volleyball and for the sport to grow. There are tons of beautiful beaches in our country and it’s about time that outdoor sports realize their full potential.
The UAAP Beach Volleyball Championships continues today and tomorrow, and next week on October 12 to 15.