SEAL BEACH — The stiff on-shore breeze that makes First Street Beach one of the Southland's premier board-sailing spots left the players in Sunday afternoon's Bud Light 4-Woman Volleyball final chasing their fortunes in the wind.
Team Lady Foot Locker's Natalie Williams slapped three jump-serve aces into the wind as her team jumped to a 5-0 lead against Team Forster. Forster battled back to tie the score, 12-12, but Williams' team was hitting into the wind again after a switch of sides and went on to win, 15-12.
"The wind was brutal," said Forster setter Stephanie Cox, who played at UC Santa Barbara and Mission Viejo High. "It sort of made it anybody's game. Nat's serve was a big factor early, but she missed a lot after that. We just made some critical errors at the end."
Lady Foot Locker led by as many as seven, 10-3, but when Keba Phipps, most valuable player in the 1991 Italian League championships, stuffed a spike attempt, Forster had closed to within four, 10-6. A few minutes later, Phipps drilled a shot into the sand and the score was tied, 12-12.
Lady Foot Locker, which had yet to win on the four-woman tour, got a beautiful serve from international model Gabrielle Reece for a 13-12 lead and then got the wind--which by now had chased many of the spectators away from a good game--in their faces.
Phipps and Antoinnette White hit spikes long on consecutive plays and it was over.
"I feel like I've been in a fist fight," Reece said. "You get up like that and you try to pretend the score is 0-0. But you can still hear them coming up behind you and you can't let it paralyze you. You have to try and forget it."
The two-day format puts the team with the best round-robin record directly into the final and pits the two teams with the next-best records in a semifinal. After falling behind Team Nervous, 11-0, Sunday morning, Reece and Co. rallied but still lost, 15-10, giving them a 3-1 round-robin record and a plus-seven in the first tiebreaker (points for versus points against). Forster was also 3-1 with a plus-seven, but lost to Lady Foot Locker in head-to-head competition.
That was enough for Williams, who went back to the hotel, figuring her services wouldn't be needed again until the 2:45 final.
But tour officials ruled that the second tiebreaker is point ratio. Lady Foot Locker scored 55 and allowed 48, a 1.145 ratio. Forster scored 53 and gave up 46, a 1.152 ratio. So Forster got the spot in the final.
"It's a rule I favored because that's how they do it in international competition," said Lady Foot Locker Coach Gary Sato. "It came back to bite me."
But he was able to round up Williams in time for the semifinal against Team Champion. Champion led, 10-6, but Reece and Williams took control of the net and led their team to a 15-10 victory.