McPeak/Youngs, May/Walsh Stay On Target For Semifinal Showdown

Aug. 21, 2004

Athens, Greece - By CHRIS DUNCAN
AP Sports Writer

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs are using deceptive offense to advance deep into the Olympic beach volleyball tournament. Misty May and Kerri Walsh are relying on keeping the focus on themselves.

The two American women's pairs advanced to the quarterfinals Saturday with straight-set victories in their medal-round openers.

The fourth-ranked McPeak and Youngs defeated 12th-seeded Czech pair Eva Celbova and Sona Novakova 21-16, 21-16. May and Walsh, the No. 1 seeds, beat seventh-seeded Chinese duo Tian Jia and Wang Fei 21-11, 21-18.

One more victory for each and the friendly rivals, who've been attending each other's matches, would meet in Monday's semifinals.

For that to happen, May and Walsh have to beat Canadians Guylaine Dumont and Annie Martin and McPeak and Youngs have to defeat Germans Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau in Sunday's quarterfinals. The Germans beat Greeks Vassilliki Arvanity and Efthalia Koutroumanidou 21-12, 19-21, 15-11 on Saturday.

"You can't look ahead. You'll lose," Walsh said. "It's easy to stay focused."

May and Walsh have yet to drop a set in four matches in Athens, playing with seamless chemistry and committing few unforced errors.

"As long as Kerri and I do what we want on our side, people can do what they want on the other," May said.

But Walsh said their run hasn't been as easy as it's looked.

"We have played some awesome teams," she said. "They're pulling out all of their ace cards here. Misty and I have just taken care of business."

The Americans got off to a typical fast start against the Chinese, jumping to an 8-3 lead behind Walsh's net dominance and May's quick-footed digging. The second set was more competitive until May and Walsh went on a 5-1 spurt to finish the match.

"We've done all the little things," May said. "And when there's a long rally, we've always been able to turn it into a positive."

McPeak and Youngs, meanwhile, have nearly perfected the tactic of going for points on the second shots of rallies rather than the usual bump-set-spike routine. The 6-foot Youngs scored five early points in their match by tapping bumps from McPeak straight over the net and into gaps between the off-balance Czechs.

"Even if you're ready for that, you've got to decide where I'm going with it," Youngs said. "The way Holly's passing, it makes it a lot easier for me to mix it up."

The first set was tied 15-all, but Novakova served into the net and Youngs pounded an ace. Youngs finished the set with her hardest spike of the match. The Americans never trailed in the second set, finishing the match sharper than they started it.

McPeak and Youngs played the last match of Saturday's afternoon session, when the blazing sun was still baking the seaside venue. They say their dedication to conditioning has helped them withstand the withering heat of Athens.

"We're not wimpy chicks," Youngs said. "We work hard, we train hard, so we don't have to worry at 15-15 whether we're going to be too exhausted to finish. It's nice to have that to lean back on."

The 35-year-old McPeak has notoriously demanding workout habits, lifting weights and doing cardio three days a week in addition to three hours of beach volleyball.

"I don't feel one bit different than I did when I was 22," said McPeak, the winningest female player in history.

American men Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger, upset winners over fourth-ranked Germans Markus Dieckmann and Jonas Reckermann on Friday, face fifth-seeded Swiss pair Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel in Sunday's quarterfinals. The 12th-seeded U.S. duo has kept alive hopes of a third straight American gold at the beach.

In other action Saturday:

-Third-seeded Swiss brothers Martin and Paul Laciga outlasted second-ranked Brazilians Marcio Araujo and Benjamin Insfran 21-19, 19-21, 15-12. On match point, Paul Laciga hopped over a courtside barrier and leaped into a giant Swiss flag unfurled by a pack of fans. "I just feel very happy for me and for them," Paul Laciga said.

-Australian men's duos split two matches. Germans Christophe Dieckmann and Andreas Scheuerpflug ousted Andrew Schacht and Josh Slack 21-19, 21-12 before Aussies Julien Prosser and Mark Williams knocked out South Africans Colin Pocock and Gershon Rorich 21-14, 21-10.

-Canadians John Child and Mark Heese, the No. 20 seeds and the lowest-ranked team remaining, upset seventh-seeded Argentinians Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde 21-17, 21-17.

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