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A Perfect Setup for May, Walsh

U.S. duo wins final at Carson, its third consecutive Olympic qualifying tour title.

September 22, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

There's not much more that can be added to the evolving resume of Misty May and Kerri Walsh.

With their 39-0 record, they had won all eight tournaments in which they played on the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals domestic tour.

Then they moved onto Olympic qualifying events, and with their title at Carson on Sunday, they have won the last three tournaments in which they have competed on that tour.

They are only 25 (Walsh) and 26 (May) years old, as young as they are talented.

It might be unfortunate for the rest of the world, but there is a solitary item left on the May-Walsh agenda -- a gold medal at next year's Athens Olympics.

In front of a hometown crowd on a photogenic Sunday afternoon, May and Walsh defeated the world's top-ranked team, Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires Tavares, 22-24, 22-20, 15-12, in the championship match of the Swatch Federation Internationale de Volleyball/Nissan Grand Slam Olympic qualifying tournament at the Home Depot Center.

"Our goal is Athens," May said. "This is just one more step along the way."

May and Walsh moved from third place to second in the FIVB world standings and are well within range of Connelly and Pires Tavares, who are atop the standings primarily because they have played two more tournaments than May and Walsh.

Barring injury or an inexplicable collapse over the next 10 months of Olympic qualifying, May and Walsh are fighting for little more than the No. 1 seeding in Athens.

There are about 10 tournaments left before the Olympics.

On Sunday, May and Walsh trailed in the third game, 10-7, before scoring eight of the final 10 points to seal the victory. The final point came on a service error by Connelly.

"Hearing the USA chant like that gave me the chills," said Walsh, who lives in Redondo Beach. "It brought it home for me that we were in front of the home crowd."

Connelly and Pires Tavares, who have played only one season together, are 3-4 this season against May and Walsh and have lost three consecutive matches against the U.S. team.

"I think now [teams] are taping us and making some changes and studying," Connelly said. "It's up to us to improve our skills and change our strategies."

Next month, Connelly and Pires Tavares will have the hometown edge at the FIVB world championships in Vitoria, Brazil. The tournament begins Oct. 7 and will be worth nearly triple the usual Olympic qualifying points.

"We're not only battling them but the fans as well," said May, who lives in Long Beach. "As long as we take care of our side of the net, it doesn't matter what happens on the other side."

*

In the third-place match, Australia's Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson defeated China's Tian Jia and Wang Fei, 23-21, 21-18....The announced attendance for all Sunday's matches was 4,284.

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