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Walsh and May Will Play for Gold

U.S. teammates defeat countrywomen McPeak and Youngs, 21-18, 21-15, and will face Brazilians who won silver at Sydney Games.

August 24, 2004|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Just before the match Monday that would send one of two U.S. women's beach volleyball teams to the gold-medal game, Misty May took out a pill bottle. The label bore a prescription taken by cancer patients for nausea.

Inside were her mother's ashes. Barbara May had died of cancer two years ago.

This was the moment Misty had been waiting for, time to sprinkle a bit of her mother on the Olympic sand. It was a call for strength and inspiration, for the courage a daughter witnessed as her mother battled an insidious disease.

In a match that lasted 41 minutes, May and Kerri Walsh defeated Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs, 21-18, 21-15. May and Walsh, seeded No. 1, will play for gold today against Brazil's Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede, silver medalists at the Sydney 2000 Games. Behar and Bede had eliminated Australia's Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson, 21-17, 21-16, earlier Monday.

McPeak and Youngs will also play today, for bronze, against the Australians. Cook, playing with a different partner, won gold in Sydney.

In men's play, Javier Bosma and Pablo Herrera of Spain will meet top-seeded Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego of Brazil for gold Wednesday. Bosma and Herrera, who beat Julien Prosser and Mark Williams of Australia, 21-18, 21-18, are the first Europeans to qualify for the men's Olympic finals. Santos and Rego beat Stefan Kobel and Patrick Heuscher of Switzerland, 21-14, 19-21, 15-12.

American men's teams won gold in Sydney and in Atlanta in 1996, but the two U.S. teams here were eliminated in the preliminaries. In 1996 and 2000, U.S. women won no medals but now have shots at gold and bronze.

May and Walsh head into today's match as the favorites. Until a loss earlier this year, they had won 90 consecutive matches on the professional circuit. In international play, their record since July 5, 2003, is 53-2, both losses having been injury-related forfeits.

May and Walsh have played the Brazilians 20 times over the last three years, winning 13, including the last six matches.

Before Monday's match, May and Walsh had compiled a 16-3 record since 2002 against McPeak and Youngs. Even so, May and Walsh confessed to jitters. They got their nails painted red, white and silver, "the closest to blue they had," May said, adding that she read a chapter of "The Da Vinci Code," listened to some Beatles tunes, couldn't eat.

"I was just anxious," May said. "You want to do your best, you want to perform. You don't know if that's going to happen or not, you just get really nervous."

On the court, with Barbara May's ashes sprinkled in the sand, the nerves didn't show. McPeak and Youngs kept it close early in the first set, then Walsh and May built up a three-point lead. McPeak and Youngs could get no closer than two.

The second set wasn't close. Walsh and May reached match point at 20-13, finishing it out at 21-15 on a spike by Walsh.

McPeak had been a medal favorite in 1996 and 2000, playing in Atlanta with Nancy Reno and in Sydney with May, only to finish fifth both times.

With gold out of reach, she said she'd be thrilled with bronze.

"I'm going for a medal," she said. "I want to be on the podium."

Walsh and May, who have yet to lose a set in six matches here, said they could play better.

"I don't feel like I have peaked yet at this tournament," May said.

She also said she'd saved some ashes to sprinkle on the sand today.

"It makes it complete," she said.

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