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May, Walsh Leaving No Room at Top in AVP

Reinforcing their No. 1 world ranking, they beat McPeak, Youngs to win Huntington Beach title.

August 17, 2003|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

Misty May and Kerri Walsh are the No. 1 women's pro beach volleyball team in the world and continue to give opponents no reason to believe things will soon change.

That is especially true on the AVP Tour, where May and Walsh are dominating.

On Saturday they won their 31st AVP match without a loss this season, defeating Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs, 22-24, 21-18, 15-7, to win the Huntington Beach Open. McPeak and Youngs, ranked second in the world, have lost to them six times, and five have come in finals.

"How do they do it? They play pretty good defense," said McPeak. "Kerri's a big girl, but she gets off the net to make some incredible digs.

"They seem to touch every ball. Even if they don't make a great dig, they make something out of it.

"I'm used to my teams doing that, and I don't like that they're doing it better than us."

May, a national champion and two-time player of the year at Long Beach State, said she and Walsh try not to get caught up in their streak because they feel they have room for improvement.

"We're gonna ride this as long as possible," May said. "We still have so much of the game to learn.... We've had our ups and downs, but we've stayed together throughout them."

May and Walsh, playing the AVP Tour for the first time as a team, have won six of the seven events. The only tournament they did not win was the San Diego Open in June, which they did not enter because of a previous commitment.

Combined with their wins on the FIVB international tour, May and Walsh have a 2003 match record of 69-4.

The day did not start easily for May and Walsh. Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan took the first game of their quarterfinal match, 21-17, and were on the verge of winning the second game before May made a clutch dig on a Davis kill attempt, then won the point with a cross-court kill.

May and Walsh went on to win the second game, 22-20, then pulled away to win the third game, 15-9. They had less trouble with Jennifer Meredith and Wendy Stammer in the semifinals, winning both games, 21-18.

McPeak and Youngs arrived in the final by defeating Carrie Busch and Leanne Schuster McSorley, 21-17, 21-10, in the quarterfinals, and Davis and Johnson Jordan in the semifinals, 21-11, 21-19.

Early in the final McPeak and Youngs struggled to get their serves over the net, and found themselves behind, 14-9. But they fought back to even the score, 20-20, and -- thanks in part to a pair of terrific blocks by Youngs -- stole the first game in overtime, 24-22.

"It's tough to come back against them, and we wanted to play the final ahead," Youngs said. "In that game we made some plays; Holly had some great digs and we had some clutch sideouts."

They continued their momentum into the second game, leading, 5-3, after a Walsh smash went wide.

When Youngs blocked Walsh at the net to put her team ahead, 9-8, she and McPeak could see May and Walsh getting testy.

"They kind of snapped at each other," Youngs said. "But I wish they hadn't because they started playing better."

Walsh concurred. "I think Misty got [angry] and I reacted improperly because we gave away a point. But emotion helps, and even when we get angry we don't pull apart from each other."

May and Walsh went on to square the match.

In the deciding third game, May changed her attack strategy. Instead of blasting kill shots, she hit more angled lob shots to neutralize Youngs' blocking prowess.

That strategy helped build a 12-7 lead, and McPeak and Youngs appeared to become discouraged.

The backbreaker came on the next point. May blocked a Youngs kill attempt with her chest and arms, took a nice set pass from Walsh and smashed a winner down the line. May and Walsh went on to serve out the match.

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