Two dozen of the world's top women beach volleyball teams will compete in the Le Coq Sportif U.S. Women's Beach Volleyball Championships on Saturday and Sunday at the Hermosa Beach pier. The women will be playing for $10,000 in prize money.
Games will begin at 9 a.m. each day and finals are scheduled about 3 p.m. Sunday. The tournament has a double-elimination format. All matches are one game to 15 points.
The recent growth of the women's pro tour is reflected in the increased sponsorship of major tournaments. Since the success of the 1984 Olympic team--the U.S. women won the silver medal--tour promoters say more good athletes are playing volleyball and joining the tour. The tournament will also be televised by ESPN, a first for women's beach volleyball.
The 24 two-woman teams include Nina Matthies and Linda Robertson, the dominant duo on the professional circuit the last three years, and Jackie Silva and Linda Chisholm, who are top-seeded this week. Matthies, the tour veteran at 32, and Robertson, 25, won nearly every major tournament in 1984, '85 and '86. They won seven of eight tournaments last year. Matthies, women's volleyball coach at Pepperdine, captained UCLA and helped the Bruins win two national titles. She's a six-time U.S. Volleyball Assn. All-American.
Robertson, also a former Bruin, was a three-time All-American outside hitter. They've won one tournament this year and are seeded second.
Matthies and Robertson are also among the trailblazers of the pro circuit. They're helping form a professional players association, and Matthies is predicting growth and popularity to match the expanding men's pro circuit. Matthies coordinates standings and seedings for tournaments.
"Once the association has been formed, we anticipate a great response by both athletes and sponsors," Matthies said. "The women's game is exciting to watch and offers corporate sponsors a great vehicle for promoting the active, healthy life style . . . . I'm trying to get the girls going in the right direction, trying to do things so they'll stay together."
Silva is Brazil's top-rated player and teammate Chisholm was on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. She is a dominating 6-foot-2 spiker.
Other top teams in the tournament are veteran Kathy Gregory and partner Janice Opalinski, who are seeded third, and Patty Dodd-Dale Keough Hall. Dodd's husband, Mike, is three-time pro beach world champion.
Matthies said the tour has also been bolstered by the presence of members of the current national team, including former UCLA star Liz Masakayan. (She won't compete this weekend). "When you say they're Olympians, it seems to make people's eyes light up," Matthies said. "It's become a lot of fun this summer. Linda and I are just hoping we can put it together at the right time."
This weekend's winners will win $3,200. The runner-up team will get $1,600. The following weekend the women play in the summer's other major tournament at Pismo Beach, with a $12,000 purse