THE rivalry between the female volleybelles of University of Southern Philippines-Foundation (USP-F) and University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) resulted in a draw as they split the titles in the 2018 Cebu Schools Athletic Association Inc. (Cesafi) beach volleyball tournament at the Fort San Pedro sand court, Plaza Independencia on Saturday, Dec. 22.

The USP-F women’s team were all smiles after beating USJ-R in straight sets, 21-18, 21-18, to win the collegiate division, while the USJ-R girls’ team returned the favor with a 21-17, 21-12, win over USP-F to celebrate its back-to-back crowns in the high school division.

The rookie-laden USP-F beach volleyball team was not only about the troika of Crisley Ann Sucalit, Iris Tito and Jiselle Marie Gunda as they also credited the efforts of their indoor volleyball teammates for the recent feat.

“We dedicate this to our teammates who have been very helpful in our practices,” said the rookie Sucalit after steering USP-F to the title and winning the event’s MVP trophy.

The sophomore player Gunda said that their teammates in the indoor volleyball contributed a lot on their practices, not just as practice players but in preparing the practice court.

“Our teammates helped in softening the soil because the soil in our practice court is not the same as here. It is hard so you have to soften it,” Gunda said in Cebuano.

Tito, also a rookie, said the championship was a fruit of the team’s hard labor.

“We applied the drills and all the training. It was really hard since we practice before our classes and practice again after classes,” said the 19-year-old Compostela native, who studies Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major in management.

“We really wanted to win this title so we can see the result of our hard work,” added Sucalit, 19, who majors in human resource.

Sucalit is one of the products of the formidable Catmon team of Vilma Veloso. Some players from Catmon are playing in the national league with one of the famous names in former NCAA MVP Gretchel Soltones.

“I started playing when I was in Grade 4 for the Catmon team,” said Sucalit, whose sister played for the University of San Carlos (USC).

The USP-F women’s team was always a third place finisher in the beach volleyball tournament since 2014.

USJ-R, on the other hand, had the last laugh in the girls’ division after beating the USP-F also in straight sets to complete a season recovery after finishing the elimination round at third place

The siblings Krizzia and Chriszelle Caasi together with Cesafi rookie Nicole Del Campo clinched back-to-back titles, while the 16-year-old Krizzia was named the MVP.

“We did not really expect this even if we are the defending champs. In the past days we were busy on school and also we did not perform that well in the elimination,” said Chriszelle, 18, referring to their even 2-2 (win-loss) record in the elimination.

“Being in the championship was really not expected. When we won the semis, we just said to ourselves that we our going to take this one game at a time,” she added.

Del Campo, 16, said she felt pressure being a rookie and part of the defending champion, but she just trusted and learned from the experience of the Caasi siblings.

“We are happy to make the right adjustment at the right time. This happened with the help of our coaches,” said Chriszelle.

In the battle for third, the rookie team Cebu Doctors’ University (CDU) beat USC, 22-20, 21-16 in the women’s division; while the Southwestern University-Phinma won against University of Cebu, 21-18, 19-21, 15-6 in the high school division.