The Los Angeles Starlites, one of six professional women volleyball teams, opened its second season Sunday night by defeating the Arizona Blaze.
Last week, the defending Major League Volleyball champions couldn't even find a place to practice.
"We still don't know where we are going to practice," said publicity director Jan Fambro. "But we would like to find a place close to the restaurant so the team can get there quickly after practice."
Does practice make the team that hungry?
Not for food, perhaps, but admittedly for the attention the Starlites had hoped to attract to their upcoming season by hosting an open house last week at a local restaurant. Attention is what these eight women were used to receiving as college stars--not to mention the notoriety three of them earned as members of the the 1984 silver medal U.S. Olympic team.
And still, after countless hours in empty gyms perfecting kills and digs and serves and blocks, these athletes hunger most of all for the thrill of expertly performing what began as only a game in gym class.
So it was appropriate that the Starlites were aglow Sunday night when they beat the Blaze, 7-15, 15-11, 15-12, 15-10, before a crowd of 749 at Loyola Marymount's Gersten Pavilion.
"Once it's in you, it's hard to give up," said Starlite middle-blocker Jeanne Beauprey-Reeves, a former Olympian and currently the UCLA assistant women's volleyball coach. "The girls on the team are more mature and have more time . . . than we did playing in college. So this league is more casual, but serious, with a high level of play. But we don't get all stressed out--we have fun."
The Starlites split the first two games with the Blaze before outside hitter Rita Crockett-Royster led an attack that put the third game away.
Beauprey-Reeves led the Starlites with 19 kills, while Crockett-Royster had 15 kills and 18 digs. Former USC All-American Tracy Clark had 17 kills for the Blaze.
Major League Volleyball, also in its second season, is the brainchild of Commissioner Steven Arnold.
"We got together a group of high-powered people who were going to buy the teams, and I watched it all dissipate before my very eyes," Arnold said. "The owners couldn't decide on anything, like salaries or acquiring players, and we could see our ideas of a well-run league getting out of hand."
So Arnold and Robert Batinovich, MLV chairman of the board, devised a plan to form a corporation which would own all the teams for two years before franchising.
Currently, teams for the 1989 season are selling from $100,000, for expansion teams, to $250,000, which Batinovich just paid for the White Plains (N.Y.) team. Besides Arizona, Los Angeles and White Plains, the league has teams in Chicago, Minneapolis and San Jose.
All players are paid the same--$75 per match, $50 per win, and $50 for each practice, which is held two times a week. Bonus money is paid for team and individual performances, a system which made former Olympian Crockett-Royster happy last year.
"I earned $9,000 extra last year for three awards (kills, hitting percentage and total digs), and $2,500 more for the team championship," the former Olympian said. "So I made about $19,000 in three months."
Not bad for a couple hours in the gym.