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 deceptiveoffense to advance deep into the Olympic beach volleyball tournament. Misty Mayand Kerri Walsh are relying on keeping the focus on themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

'As long as Kerri and I do what we want on our side, people can do whatthey 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 allof 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, jumpingto an 8-3 lead behind Walsh's net dominance and May's quick-footed digging. Thesecond set was more competitive until May and Walsh went on a 5-1 spurt tofinish the match.

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

McPeak and Youngs, meanwhile, have nearly perfected the tactic of going forpoints on the second shots of rallies rather than the usual bump-set-spikeroutine. The 6-foot Youngs scored five early points in their match by tappingbumps from McPeak straight over the net and into gaps between the off-balanceCzechs.

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

The first set was tied 15-all, but Novakova served into the net and Youngspounded 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 thanthey 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 theirdedication to conditioning has helped them withstand the withering heat ofAthens.

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

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

'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-rankedGermans Markus Dieckmann and Jonas Reckermann on Friday, face fifth-seededSwiss pair Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel in Sunday's quarterfinals. The12th-seeded U.S. duo has kept alive hopes of a third straight American gold atthe beach.

In other action Saturday:

-Third-seeded Swiss brothers Martin and Paul Laciga outlasted second-rankedBrazilians Marcio Araujo and Benjamin Insfran 21-19, 19-21, 15-12. On matchpoint, Paul Laciga hopped over a courtside barrier and leaped into a giantSwiss flag unfurled by a pack of fans. 'I just feel very happy for me and forthem,' Paul Laciga said.

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

-Canadians John Child and Mark Heese, the No. 20 seeds and the lowest-rankedteam remaining, upset seventh-seeded Argentinians Mariano Baracetti and MartinConde 21-17, 21-17.

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