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May, Walsh sweep; Metzger, Holdren rally

8/15/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- They're together again -- and dominant as
ever.
Top-ranked American beach volleyball duo Misty May and Kerri
Walsh, teammates for just the second time in two months, defeated
Japan's Chiaki Kusuhara and Ryoko Tokuno 21-9, 21-16 in preliminary
pool play Sunday.

May spent much of the summer rehabbing a pulled abdominal muscle
while Walsh played with others and fretted about her favorite
partner's status. They played five matches in Hermosa beach in July
before May decided she needed more time to recover.

On Sunday night, May showed no signs of an injury, leaping and
diving with confidence and ease.

"It's fine. No problem," she said. "It felt great to get out
there."
The duo showed no rust, either, instantly regaining the
chemistry they had while winning 90 consecutive matches between
July 2003 and last June. With Walsh controlling the net and May
scrambling behind her, the Americans jumped to a 9-1 lead.

"Everything was clicking," said the 6-foot-3 Walsh, who turned
26 on Sunday. "We didn't miss a beat."

The Japanese duo offered more of a challenge in the second set,
building a 13-11 lead. But Kusuhara served into the net before May
and Walsh angled well-placed winners to retake control.

Walsh finished with 17 kills, most of them overpowering spikes,
and May had 10 digs and three aces.

"It was a great match to start the Olympics," Walsh said.

Earlier, Americans Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger rallied from a
set down to beat Australians Andrew Schacht and Josh Slack in a
match filled with exciting rallies and tense drama.

The 12th-seeded Americans staved off two match points in the
second set and won 22-24, 24-22, 15-13. Holdren finished the
80-minute match by blasting a spike that Schacht couldn't handle
from his knees.

"When Dax and I win matches, we have to win like that,"
Metzger said. "We have to scratch and claw and win the rallies
that go back and forth three or four times."

The Americans were down 21-20 in the second set when Metzger
tapped a soft shot to open sand to tie the game. A spike by Schacht
gave the 13th-seeded Aussies another match point, but Slack slapped
a serve into the net.

Metzger sent a serve between Schacht and Slack and the Aussies
almost collided as Schacht missed the bump. Metzger then drove a
hard serve into Slack for an ace to even the match.

The Americans never trailed in the decisive set, although it was
tied five times. Holdren set Metzger up for a hard spike to put the
United States up 14-12. Schacht answered with a spike before
Holdren's game-winning kill.

"Nothing comes easy out here," Holdren said. "You've just got
to battle."

While blustery winds played havoc with outdoor sports at other
Olympic venues Sunday, the sunken, round beach volleyball stadium
largely kept the weather from being much of a factor.

In other play, Brazil's formidable quartet swept its openers.

Top-ranked men's pair Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos struggled,
but finally put away 24th-seeded Norwegians Iver Horrem and Bjorn
Maaseide 21-15, 19-21, 15-10. Second-seeded women Shelda Bede and
Adriana Behar, silver medalists in Sydney, routed No. 23 Leigh-Ann
Naidoo and Julia Willand, of South Africa, 21-7, 21-10.

Marcio Araujo and Benjamin Insfran, the No. 2 seeds on the men's
side, defeated French duo Stephane Canet and Mathieu Hamel 21-13,
21-14. Sandra Pires, who has won medals at both previous Olympic
beach competitions, and Ana Paula Connelly, the women's No. 3
seeds, defeated 22nd-seeded Norwegians Nila Hakedel and Ingrid
Torlen 21-18, 21-19.

Third-seeded Swiss brothers Martin and Paul Laciga needed only
35 minutes to beat mistake-plagued Austrians Peter Gartmeyer and
Robert Nowotny 21-14, 21-14.

The Lacigas converted 24 of 35 kill attempts and scored on nine
digs. Martin Laciga, at 29 the younger brother by five years,
called their performance lackluster and said they had "a lot of
things to improve."

"We didn't play very well," he said. "We have to make more of
a statement."