MANILA, Philippines — An action-packed reunion looms as UAAP stars renew their rivalry on the sand in the opening day of the 2017 Belo Philippine Superliga Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup Thursday at the SM By the Bay in Mall of Asia.

The stars of FEU and UST -- Bernadeth Pons and Sisi Rondina – will join forces for Petron Sprint 4T as they battle former La Salle stalwart Cyd Demecillo and Fritz Gallenero of F2 Logistics A in the 8 p.m. nightcap.

Prior to that, Jovelyn Gonzaga will kick off her title-retention campaign when she and fellow veteran Maica Morada of Cignal A battle Generika-Ayala B of Rosalie Pepito and Kat Arado at 7 p.m., while Kathleen Barrinuevo and Cherilyn Sindayen of Foton take on Ces Molina and Bang Pineda of Petron XCS at 6 p.m.; Mylene Paat and Janine Marciano of Cignal B wage war against powerhouse Generika-Ayala A of Fiola Ceballos and Patty Orendain at 5 p.m., F2 Logistics A clashes with Wensh Tiu and Abie Nuval of Cocolife at 4 p.m.; and Marijo Medalla and Bianca Tripoli of Perpetual Help battles Generika Ayala B at 3 p.m.

In the men’s side, Wayuk tip things off when it faces IEM A at 7:30 am followed by the battle between IEM B and SM By the Bay at 8:20 am, Cignal HD and Perpetual Help B at 9:10 am, Generika-Ayala and Wayuk at 10 a.m.; SM By the Bay and TVM at 10:50 a.m.; and Perpetual Help B and IEM A at 11:40 a.m.

But still, all eyes will be on the collision between the UAAP stars.

Three years ago, Rondina steered the Tigresses to the UAAP beach volleyball crown despite being a rookie. With fellow greenhorn Rica Rivera as partner, Rondina overpowered Cyd Demecillo and Kim Fajardo of La Salle to run away with the crown.

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The following year, Demecillo stormed back as she led the Lady Spikers to a rousing victory over Pons and Kyla Atienza of FEU to capture the school’s first ever beach volleyball title.

Rondina, for her part, bombed out of the semifinals after Rivera fell ill midway in the tournament.

This year, it was Rondina’s turn to rule the sand as she and her partner in Jem Gutierrez dominated Pons and Atienza in a thrilling showdown.

“Medyo famillar na po kami sa isa’t isa kasi for the past three years palagi kaming magkakalaban sa UAAP,” said Rondina, who fell prey to Gonzaga and Nene Bautista of RC Cola-Army in a dramatic finals showdown of the PSL beach volley tourney last year.

“Mabuti na lang at familiar kami sa kanila. At least alam na namin kung papano kami mananalo.”

Also expected to draw a massive crowd is the battle between Cignal HD A and Generika-Ayala B in this four-day affair wherein the top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinals.

Gonzaga, a battle-scarred campaigner and the country’s bet in the beach volleyball tournament of the Southeast Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia in 2011, said she would try her best to be very careful as she is up against a very solid field.

“Everybody improved,” said Gonzaga, admitting that her limited training might work to her disadvantage. “I will try my best to be play with extreme caution because everybody is out to win the title.”