SUBIC—Japan’s Saki Maruyama and Erika Habaguchi flexed their muscles just enough under a blazing sun on Thursday to lead the march of qualifiers to the main draw of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures at the Subic Bay Sand Court here.
Maruyama and Habaguchi, however, had to eliminate Ami Shirahata and Sayaka Yamada, 21-18, 22-20, from a seven-pair Japanese contingent in the tournament organized by the Philippine National Volleyball Federation.
Regardless, Maruyama and Habaguchi were an excited and a happy tandem, who enjoyed the Subic sun and the warm welcome from an enthusiastic crowd that was treated to a free entry on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at the facility that played venue to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
“It was hot but we enjoyed our match,” said Habaguchi, who at 41 still packs the same solid form she flashed as a member of the Japan national team to the Incheon 2014 Asian Games.
The fans, Habaguchi said, were just too enthusiastic to meet, greet and take selfies with the Japanese pair, who competed in a Challenger event only two weeks ago in Torquay, Australia.
“They’re all very cute,” both Habaguchi and Maruyama, 30, who were sought for selfies by school-aged kids drawn to the International Volleyball Federation-standard competition as well as local volunteers who they described as “very friendly and hospitable.”
Canada’s Darby Dunn and Olivia Grace Furlan rallied past France’s Manon Rebuffel and Melody Benhamou, 18-21, 21-18, 15-10, to also advance to the women’s main draw, where three teams from the Philippines as well as 11 more squads from Japan, Norway, Singapore, Czech Republic, Netherlands, USA, Canada, South Korea and France await.
Ryoto Sato and Ryo Shindo also of Japan advanced to the men’s main draw after beating Austria’s Stefan Schosswohl and Matthias Gersin, 21-19, 23-21, along with Israeli’s Tomer Hadar and David Lanciano, who outplayed Czech’s David Lenc and Filif Habr, 22-20, 21-18.
The qualifiers went well into late afternoon Thursday with four men and four women teams earning tickets to the main draw for men and women of the event supported by the Philippine Sports Commission, PLDT Home and Rebisco and also backed by Akari, F2 Logistics, Asics, SBMA, Philippine Olympic Committee, Smart Giga Play, Cignal Play, OneSports, OneSports+, Senoh and Mikasa.
The main draw matches start at 8:30 a.m. and broadcast live over OneSports and OneSports+ on Friday. The finals are set Sunday.