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MANHATTAN BEACH OPEN : No. 1 Kirby and Masakayan Sock It to the Competition : Volleyball: They run winning streak to record 27 matches and advance to today's semifinals.


The sand was so hot at Saturday's $20,000 pro beach volleyball World Championships in Manhattan Beach that most players wore special sand socks to compete.

The gear is avoided when possible because players say it affects mobility.

"They're hard to move in because they're slippery," top-seeded Karolyn Kirby said. "But it was so hot I almost felt like I couldn't breathe. It was oppressive."

But the heat wasn't enough to prevent Kirby and partner Liz Masakayan from cruising through the quarterfinals of the 32-team event.

The top-seeded team gave up a total of four points in three matches to advance to today's semifinal against fourth-seeded Dennie Knoop and Deb Richardson.

"Actually I feel really weird," Masakayan said. "I feel sluggish because it's so hot. It's almost like I'm huffing out there."

Kirby and Masakayan have won 11 of 12 events on this year's Women's Professional Volleyball Assn tour. Their record 27-match winning streak dates to early July.

In Saturday's quarterfinals, Kirby and Masakayan beat ninth-seeded Jackie Campbell and Monique Oliver, 15-2, in 20 minutes.

"Karolyn and Liz have the toughest jump serve that we've seen all summer," Campbell said. "When we play a team as good as Liz and Karolyn, we try to make every shot perfect and that forces us to make too many mistakes."

Kirby and Masakayan had an 11-1 lead before Oliver served an ace for her team's last point.

"We were ready to play," Kirby said. "We came out a little stronger at the beginning of the game. A lot of times we cruise till it's time to take control and by the end we play harder. Now we started off hard."

Kirby believes a strong start will be essential in beating Richardson and Knoop, who defeated fifth-seeded Janice Harrer and Shannon Millen, 15-2, in the quarterfinals. Richardson and Knoop led, 10-1.

Knoop, a Redondo Beach resident, believes her team has a good chance of upsetting Kirby and Masakayan in this morning's 9:30 semifinal.

"We've played them very well in the past," she said. "They're so strong and aggressive and quick and we match up really well. . . . Deb and I are a new team and we're only going to get better. We are strong and aggressive and I'm really fast and Deb is a beastly block."

The second and third-seeded teams also had easy quarterfinal victories. Second-seeded Barbra Fontana of Manhattan Beach and Lori Kotas beat seventh-seeded Wendy Fletcher and Marla O'Hara, 15-4, on center court.

Fontana, a Mira Costa High graduate, and Kotas had an 11-1 lead.

They will meet third-seeded Elaine Roque and Gail Castro in the semifinals. Castro and Roque defeated sixth-seeded Lori Biller and Alison Johnson, 15-5, in the quarterfinals.

"I think we were ready to play today," Roque said. "We were well prepared and we trained hard for this deep sand."

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