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U.S. Women Getting Close to a Beach Bash

One more round stands between Walsh-May facing McPeak-Youngs in the semifinals.

August 22, 2004|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — The two U.S. women's beach volleyball teams cruised Saturday in what amounted to Olympic scrimmages. One more win apiece, and Kerri Walsh and Misty May will play Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs.

Only thing is, that match won't be for gold.

The way the draw at the Olympic tournament was set, based on records coming into the Athens Games, Walsh and May were seeded No. 1, McPeak and Youngs No. 4. In any standard tournament draw, assuming the seeds play true to form, the first- and fourth-seeded teams meet in the semifinals, which are Monday in Athens.

Both U.S. teams won convincingly Saturday. As the sun was setting at the seaside beach volleyball stadium, McPeak and Youngs defeated Eva Celbova and Sona Novakova of the Czech Republic, 21-16, 21-16. Later, under the lights, Walsh and May beat Wang Fei and Tian Jia of China, 21-11, 21-18.

Today, in the quarterfinals, Walsh and May play Guylaine Dumont and Annie Martin of Canada; McPeak and Youngs play Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau of Germany.

Also today, in the men's quarterfinals, the U.S. team of Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger plays Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel of Switzerland.

After Saturday's matches, all four U.S. women said their focus was on the quarterfinals, not a potential All-American semifinal. "First things first," Walsh said.

Even so, it's not as if the two teams don't know what's what, particularly McPeak and Youngs, who would be decided underdogs.

Since July 2002, the teams have met 19 times; McPeak and Youngs have won three, and one of those, at the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tournament last month in Hermosa Beach, came on a forfeit, when May's abdomen injury flared up again.

The last time McPeak and Youngs beat Walsh and May in a match? It was Sept. 22, 2002. Aside from the Hermosa Beach event, Walsh and May have won 13 in a row against McPeak and Youngs.

"We knew going in we were four and they were one," Youngs said. "And we knew that they were going to have to play us. That's the way I look at it -- they're playing us. We're not playing them. They're playing us.

"We're going to be confident going in there, as they are."

The Saturday matches essentially served for both U.S. teams as glorified practice sessions.

McPeak and Youngs played perhaps their best match of the tournament -- McPeak repeatedly digging balls on defense, Youngs continually scoring by sending little dinks across the net on the team's second touch.

"It was the first match we've done a lot of things we wanted to do," McPeak said.

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