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Veterans Make Presence Felt Again

Familiar names Kiraly, Doble reach semifinals at Huntington Beach men's event, outlasting Fonoimoana and Wong.

August 17, 2003|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

There are plenty of hungry young athletes looking to make names for themselves on the men's pro beach volleyball tour. But the teams that make the semifinals and finals on the AVP Tour have many familiar faces.

Case in point: the Huntington Beach Open. Today's men's semifinals will feature three-time Olympic gold medalist Karch Kiraly and partner Brent Doble, who defeated Eric Fonoimoana and Kevin Wong, 24-22, 12-21, 18-16, on Saturday. Fonoimoana and Wong won last week's tour event in Manhattan Beach.

Kiraly and Doble will face Todd Rogers and Sean Scott, who got by Scott Ayakatubby and Brian Lewis, 21-19, 21-19.

"There has been an infusion of young guys ... some good young players," Doble said. "But on Sunday it seems to be four or six of the same teams that have been around."

Experience was in abundance Saturday. After edging past Fonoimoana and Wong in the first game, Kiraly and Doble were routed by their lightning-quick opponents in the second. And when Fonoimoana and Wong overcame an 8-3 deficit in the third game to go ahead, it would not have been a surprise if Kiraly and Doble had decided to try another day.

Instead they forced overtime and won late.

"I don't think being frustrated helps you," Doble said. "You must focus on making a good pass, a good set and good smart play. You try to string those good plays together and hope for the best."

Matches like the one Saturday are what keep Kiraly -- at 42 the winningest pro beach player ever and one who has earned more than $3 million in prize money -- competing against younger players.

"It's still fun to play the game, and I love the challenge of trying to be the best on any given weekend," he said. "And every match is a challenge. Every match is a dogfight because the tour is so deep now. There are a lot of very good former college players out here, and with the rules changes of a couple of years ago, it's easier for indoor players to come outside and make an impact."

Despite their losses, the teams of Fonoimoana-Wong and Ayakatubby-Lewis can still qualify for today's semifinals by winning the contenders bracket.

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