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McPeak, Arce Do the Dirty Work to Win

Volleyball: They go to overtime to beat Fontana Harris and Hanley, 13-12, at national championships.

August 19, 1996|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Holly McPeak showed up for the final of the Women's Professional Volleyball Assn. Evian National Championships wearing a sleek, white one-piece swimsuit and promptly showed she had no intention of keeping it clean.

McPeak repeatedly hurled her body across the court, sending sand flying with her dives into the plastic barriers that surround the arena. After one spectacular dig, the crowd of about 4,000 that packed the bleachers and lined the Huntington Beach Pier overlooking the court, began to chant her name.

Her opponents, top-seeded Barbra Fontana Harris and Linda Hanley, never let up. They kept chiseling out one- and two-point leads before McPeak's partner, Lisa Arce, served a winner to tie the score, 12-12, before time expired.

On the first play of the 30-second, sudden-death overtime, Fontana Harris spiked one across court but McPeak dived to keep it alive and Arce ended the game with a kill. The final score was 13-12 and third-seeded McPeak and Arce split the $20,000 first-place prize.

"You try to make those types of plays happen and it hurts the other team [mentally]. What am I going to do? I'm going to have a bruise," she said with a shrug. "It's worth it."

It was the second-consecutive tour victory and third overall in five tournaments together this season for McPeak and Arce, who won at New York last weekend and at Puerto Rico in April. They also have finished third twice and are 28-3 in individual games.

McPeak, the tour's most valuable player last season, and Arce, the most improved player last season, joined forces after McPeak finally split with Nancy Reno for good after the Olympics, where they placed fifth.

McPeak and Reno won 19 tournaments together since April, 1995, and were one of the WPVA's most successful teams.

McPeak and Arce played together at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa High and for three years at Cal before McPeak transferred to UCLA and helped the Bruins to the 1990 NCAA title. McPeak and Arce have practiced together on the beach for the past several years and were both looking forward to the chance to compete as a team again.

"I had to take care of some unfinished business and that is over and gone and here we are as a team and the time is right," she said.

In the final, Arce and McPeak jumped to a 4-1 lead before Hanley and Fontana Harris went on a 4-1 run to tie it, 5-5. The teams slugged it out for more than four minutes, tying it at 7-7, 9-9, and 11-11 before stalling at 12-12 with 2:07 remaining on the clock.

There, they stayed through 19 sideouts. With the clock whittled down to five seconds, Fontana Harris served with a chance to win it. She was aiming for McPeak, hoping to force the taller Arce to set, but the wind picked up her serve and it drifted to Arce.

Arce passed perfectly to McPeak then took the set and tapped the ball over Hanley's block for a sideout to earn the serve heading into overtime.

"That was scary," Arce said. "That's why you play--to be in a situation like that and be able to come through."

For Hanley, who attended Laguna Beach High and UCLA, and Fontana Harris, who earned her law degree at Santa Clara and lives in Laguna Beach, the loss was disappointing.

"We should have closed the door today, and we didn't," Hanley said. "It would have been a perfect feather in our cap. We worked hard all year and we came one point away."

Hanley, 36, and Fontana Harris, 30, spent years away from the court before making a recent, successful comeback. They have won three WPVA events together this season and placed fourth at the Olympics.

In the semifinals, McPeak and Arce defeated fifth-seeded Patty Dodd and Christine Schaefer, 15-10, and Fontana Harris and Hanley defeated ninth-seeded Krista Blomquist and Danalee Bragado, 15-2.

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