May, Walsh say waiting a mental test

Updated: August 18, 2004, 6:11 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- American beach volleyball pair Misty May and Kerri Walsh say the Olympics is more of a mental test than a physical one.

So far, they've passed it with ease.

The top-ranked team was overpowering Tuesday night for the second straight match of pool play, beating Rebekka Kadijk and Marrit Leenstra 21-11, 21-13.

"That felt unbelievable, that felt so right. Misty and I played some great volleyball," said the 6-foot-3 Walsh, who finished with 21 kills and two blocks.

Walsh was anxious to play again after the duo's straight-set win over Japan's Chiaki Kusuhara and Ryo Tokuno on Sunday. In fact, the wait was driving her crazy.

On the domestic AVP tour, teams can play three matches in one day and six matches in two days. In Olympic pool play, teams play only three matches across six days.

"It's going to be a test of your emotional and mental strength," Walsh said. "Physically, you have enough time to recover. But every match is so important, if you have 36 hours to think about it, you can get a little 'headsy."'

May says she's the more low key of the pair. The gaps between matches don't bother her.

"Kerri and I were talking about that today," said May, who scrambled for 10 digs. "As long as the days are, they fly by. It's been going pretty fast."

As they did in their opener, the Americans jumped to a big early lead on Tuesday, with Walsh pounding down spikes and May fielding every attack from the Dutch duo. May and Walsh led only 12-10 in the second set before a spike by May started a decisive 6-2 spurt.

"Our goal is always to play ahead because when you have that confidence, it allows you to breathe a little bit easier," Walsh said.

May and Walsh finish pool play Thursday against the Czech Republic's Eva Celbova and Sona Novakova. The other American pair, Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs, returns to action Wednesday against Swiss pair Simone Kuhn and Nicole Schnyder-Benoit.

While the American women are cruising to the 16-team, single-elimination medal round, both men's teams are on the brink of elimination.

Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger dropped to 1-1 in pool play Tuesday with a 14-21, 21-15, 16-14 loss to Norwegians Iver Horrem and Bjorn Maaseide.

"We blew it," said Metzger. "We had a lot of opportunities. Every ball we touched or popped it up. We just couldn't finish in the second and third games."

The 12th-seeded Americans were sharp early, but the Norwegians, the lowest seed in the tournament, were equally good in the second.

The Americans staved off one match point in the third, but at 14-15, Horrem blasted a serve that nicked the net cord and bounced off the line, out of Holdren's reach.

"A heater on the net cord and down the line. What are you going to do?" said Metzger.

The Americans were coming off an exciting three-set win over Australians Andrew Schacht and Josh Slack. Thursday, they face top-ranked Brazilians Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos, a team they defeated last September.

The other American men's duo, Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard, will face fifth-ranked Swiss pair Stefan Kobel and Patrick Heuscher on Wednesday. Blanton and Nygaard have looked sluggish and overmatched in losing their first two matches.

Also Tuesday, all four Brazil teams stayed unbeaten and clinched berths in the medal round.

Playing in front of a dancing, singing throng of yellow-clad fans, second-ranked Marcio Araujo and Benjamin Insfran defeated 14th-seeded Cubans Francisco Alvarez and Juan Rosel 23-21, 22-20.

Second-ranked women's pair, Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar, the 2000 silver medalists in Sydney, followed with a 21-17, 21-17 win over 14th-seeded Italian pair Daniela Gattelli and Lucilla Perrotta.

"The atmosphere in the stadium was very important to us. The Brazilian fans kept us going," said Bede, a silver medalist in Sydney with Behar.

Later, third-seeded Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires defeated 15th-seeded Greek duo Efi Koutroumanidou and Vassiliki Arvaniti 21-13, 21-14. Rego and Santos ended the day with a 21-17, 21-17 win over the 13th-seeded Australians Schacht and Slack.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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