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Four Top Players on Women's Tour Reportedly Signed by Men's Group : Pro volleyball: The WPVA has been struggling financially since last summer. Still, the top-ranked player is not part of the exodus.

March 25, 1993|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOUTHEAST AREA — Four of the top six players in the Women's Professional Volleyball Assn. apparently are leaving the tour, putting the future of the financially struggling league in doubt.

Third-ranked Linda Carrillo, fourth-ranked Angela Rock, fifth-ranked Nancy Reno and sixth-ranked Jackie Silva reportedly have signed multi-year contracts to play in a newly created beach tour with the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals, the governing body of the men's tour.

A format has not been finalized and the AVP reportedly has not signed its part of the deal. AVP President Jon Stevenson declined to comment.

The 7-year-old WPVA has been struggling financially since last summer, when tournament prize money was cut by 10% toward the end of the season and 25% of prize money was deferred. Last fall, Roxana Vargas resigned after three years as executive director.

Subsequently Carrillo, 35, quit as WPVA president, and several board members resigned. Most players are owed money, and financial constraints indicate they will not be paid soon.

"I've donated and given my heart and soul to the WPVA," Carrillo said. "I've paid my dues and I've been frustrated. My time has come to have fun and play and not be so involved."

Reno, 27, said she was disappointed and frustrated with the WPVA.

"I will not be back with the WPVA if it exists in the future," said Reno, a former Stanford All-American and U.S. National team member who won last year's World Championship title in Manhattan Beach with partner Karolyn Kirby. "It was the most traumatic decision I've made in my life. It was for all of us."

Reno and Carrillo would not disclose the terms of their AVP contracts. Rock, 29, and Silva, 31, were unavailable for comment.

According to Kirby, the WPVA's No. 1-ranked player, the AVP offered each of the players a five-year contract worth $40,000 a year for the first three years and $45,000 for the final two. Additionally, a $58,000 bonus pool would be offered each year.

Kirby, who has dominated the WPVA tour for the past two years, and second-ranked Liz Masakayan refused the offer, which was made to the players in late February. According to Kirby and Masakayan, the players were given 48 hours to respond to the offer.

"In the last couple of years the WPVA has gone through some ups and downs and we appeared unstable," said Kirby, 31. "But I have faith that this is a great product. I'm staying. I want to give this thing a chance. This is the same organization that gave me a chance when I was No. 32 and there's no way I could do this to this organization.

"Plus I think the integrity of the women's tour should stay intact. . . . The players who left said it was business, but I feel a sense of loyalty and responsibility."

Masakayan, a UCLA All-American and former U.S. National team member, says the WPVA owes her $15,000 in tournament earnings, but that wasn't enough to make her leave. She will team with Kirby on this year's WPVA tour, which is scheduled to begin April 17 in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico.

"It was money versus integrity," said Masakayan, 28. "I don't think I could have lived with it. . . . I do absolutely see a future here. Granted, it will be tougher because some of the top players are gone and people are going to wonder who has the better tour."

Flo Bryan, who was recently named WPVA executive director, believes the organization will survive the loss of four top players.

"It's unfortunate that they're going back to where they started," Bryan said. "Before the WPVA, the women's tour was a shadow of the men's tour. They started that way, as a sideshow for the men."

Prize money for this year's 13-stop women's tour is expected to be about $300,000, less than half of last year's $795,000. Bryan said a substantially bigger purse will be offered in 1994.

"Sure we're scaling back this year," Bryan said. "And sure we wouldn't want some of our players to leave, but we still have the No. 1 player and (most valuable player in Kirby). Our scaling back in '93 is a calculated attempt to rebuild the tour in 1994."

Bryan says the WPVA signed an agreement with Prime Network for twelve 90-minute shows in 1993. A spokesperson for Coors Light, the WPVA's top sponsor for two years, said it plans to continue sponsoring WPVA events.

"I don't think it's going to diminish our ratings on TV or crowds on-site," said Kent Fonda, manager of event marketing for Coors. "In a way what the AVP did signifies that we have a hot property."

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