Cherry Ann Rondina could care less about the humid breeze blowing from Manila Bay. She laid on the pavement near the Sands SM By the Bay while performing exercises with a gym ball. It’s understandable if the pride of Compostela, Cebu is doing this to muster energy before a match. But her routine occurred minutes she and teammate Blove Barbon defeated UE’s Rhea Manalo and Shan Ritual in their UAAP Season 81 encounter.
As the sun sets on her UAAP beach volleyball career, Rondina has stamped her dominance by winning four championships to go with four Most Valuable Player awards. Her recent conquest saw her and Barbon defeating a veteran De La Salle line-up of Michelle Morente and Tin Tiamzon. Yet as sand can be blown easily by the wind, her exploits on sand is cemented. How did she do it? She simply did not care.
Not that she prevented herself showing emotions by celebrating scores and hugging teammates. But she simply did not care about the odds that went against her.
Quick rise, quick fall
She did not care that she was an unheralded rookie who partnered with Rica Jane Rivera to win the UAAP Season 78 women’s beach volleyball title over DLSU’s Kim Fajardo and Cyd Demecillo. It was in that makeshift court within the University of the East open ground that her reign started after drilling the match point ball between the two Lady Spikers. The win capped a 9-1 record that avenged UST’s defeat against Adamson University in the previous final.
But even leaders do fall. The Golden Tigresses failed to defend the beach volleyball crown after posting a 4-3 record which eliminated them from the playoffs. La Salle got their payback by spoiling UST’s Final Four hopes with a victory in the last elimination round game for both teams. Adamson and FEU also scarred UST’s loss tally.
The Queen of Sand returns
Rondina could care less about that UST setback as she and teammate Jem Gutierrez set their sights on the UAAP Season 79 beach volleyball title. It did not matter to the Cherry Bomb that she will play alongside another rookie. What mattered was their partnership outclassed the opposition and the Queen of Sand regained her throne. UST blitzed through the eliminations with a 7-0 record but tasted setback against the Lady Tamaraws in Game Two of their best-of-three championship series.
It was the only blemish in their standing as UST clinched another title with Rondina winning a second MVP distinction. It would be understandable if she took it easy during the indoor volleyball season. However, she could care less and played the six-a-side with the same tenacity. Rondina brought her crisp spikes and nimble feet on both surfaces for her last three UAAP seasons. But beach volleyball remains her kingdom and she ruled it with absolute dominance.
The Cherry Ann Rondina Invitational
That’s another term for the UAAP women’s beach volleyball competitions for Season 80 and 81. Many tried to unseat her atop the tournament but failed. Season 80 saw her collaborate with rookie Cait Viray but the result stayed the same. The UST duo defeated Bernadeth Pons and Kyla Atienza of FEU but not without a hiccup. UST was down six, 19-13, in the second set of Game Two when they initiated an 8-0 run to sweep the Lady Tamaraws en route to a title, 21-19. Rondina won MVP number three while Viray was named Rookie of the Year.
It was same story, different chapter in Season 81 but Rondina became a model of controlled aggression. Such is the case possibly because it’s her last go on the sand. But she made sure to go out on top as she and Barbon never dropped a set in the tournament. But unlike the fiery celebrations she had in the past, she simply hugged her rookie teammate. A tap on the back of Barbon’s head before saying a few words could be a subtle anointing from the queen to her heir.
The fourth title and MVP made Rondina the most successful player in UAAP beach volleyball history. She received her latest accolades in a business-like demeanor probably because it led her to reflect on her journey. Though not the most imposing player physically, Rondina’s determination to put in the extra work be it on pavement or at practice enabled her to impose her will. She could care less about the physical demands of both beach and indoor volleyball as she brought the same intensity on both surfaces.
Cherry Ann Rondina built her castle on sand figuratively. Yet even that remains literal to those who have witnessed her reign in beach volleyball. It is a castle that no sea or breeze can wash away. True to her demeanor, she could care less about her lofty status in the sport. But with each UAAP beach volleyball season passing from hereon, her legend will continually grow. Many will try to build their castles on the sand court as well. But until someone builds a mightier one that the tide of injuries and improving opposition cannot wash away, it is but right to marvel at her greatness.