Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons fell short of pulling the rug from under a taller and more experienced New Zealand, which pulled off a scary 2-1 win in the Asian Volleyball Confederation Continental Cup semifinals in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, on Friday.
The tried and tested Rondina-Pons tandem pulled off a 21-12, 17-21, 15-9 win over Francesca Kirwan and Olivia MacDonald, giving hope to a Philippine side that earlier saw its bid in the men’s side quashed by Australia.
Dij Rodriguez and Babylove Barbon couldn’t duplicate the victory and bowed to Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Polley, 14-21, 13-21, forcing a golden match.
Zeimann and Polley proved to be the Kiwis’ power of strength and also dismissed the Philippine campaign—but not without some scary moments—with a 19-21, 21-10, 15-12 decision over Rondina and Pons.
Despite the loss, Rondina savored her victory with Pons in the opening duel for the Philippines whose participation in the tournament is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine National Volleyball Federation partner Rebisco.
“We still have all the reasons to be happy. We beat New Zealand, we didn’t expect that against experienced veterans,” Rondina said. “Never mind that they were taller, we gave it our best sho and gave our country some exciting moments.”
New Zealand joined Japan, 2016 Continental Cup titlist Australia, host Thailand, and zonal champions Vanuatu, Indonesia, Kazahkstan and China in the finals where an Olympic berth is at stake.
In the golden match, the Kiwis made a major adjustment by forcing Pons to work more on offense over Rondina to even the match and force a deciding third set.
New Zealand raced to 4-0 and 10-5 leads in the third set but were caught reeling behind Pons’s incursions that pushed the Filipinas to within 9-11.
Sisi and Rondina threatened at 12-14 but the Kiwis held fort and got the win on a Pons service error.