Sand temperature hits 107 degrees
ATHENS, Greece -- America's two beach volleyball duos won Olympic quarterfinal matches Sunday to set up a showdown for a berth in the gold-medal match.
Fourth-ranked Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs defeated the eighth-ranked German pair of Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau 21-17, 21-17 before top-seeded Misty May and Kerri Walsh ousted No. 16 Guylaine Dumont and Annie Martin of Canada 21-19, 21-14.
"We have been wanting to play them for a long time. We know they've got a lot more pressure on them" Youngs said of her friendly American rivals.
"I'm so proud of both of our teams for getting this far," Walsh said. "But we want to come out on top tomorrow."
McPeak and Youngs have been the top team in the world this summer, with six wins and 13 top-10 finishes. May and Walsh were the best before that, winning 90 consecutive matches and 15 straight events until May injured her abdominal muscle.
May and Walsh have won 16 of 18 meetings in the series, including the last 13. McPeak said she and Youngs are ready for the rematch.
"We've lost to them a bunch, but a lot of times because we haven't played our best volleyball," said McPeak, the sport's winningest female player. "We've really hit our stride this summer and we haven't been able to face that team when we're at our strengths. I'm looking forward to it."
Earlier Sunday, 12th-seeded Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger lost to fifth-seeded Swiss Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel 21-16, 21-19, ending U.S. hopes of a third straight gold medal on the men's side.
Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes won the first Olympic beach tournament in 1996 and Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana captured the gold in 2000.
"It's a bummer," Metzger said. "But in a few hours, I'll recover and I'll go enjoy Athens."
On match point, Metzger made a desperate dive, but couldn't reach a Kobel spike that Holdren tipped at the net. The Americans embraced at the end, discouraged with their performance, but gratified by their unlikely run.
"We had the best time of our lives and we probably shouldn't have even been here," Holdren said.
A year ago, the two were dumped by their partners within hours of each other. They decided to team up, even though their 6-foot-3 frames and similar playing styles made them less-than-ideal partners.
"We played as hard we could. It just didn't happen for us today," Holdren said.
Tournament officials said the temperature of the sand during the match was 107 degrees.
The sweltering heat drained both teams mentally and physically. Early in the second set, the teams played a rally that lasted nearly a minute -- a marathon in beach volleyball. When Kobel ended the point with a spike to open sand, all four players collapsed in the sand, exhausted.
"We killed each other," Heuscher said. "It's impossible to play in this heat."
McPeak and Youngs controlled their quarterfinal match from the start, while May and Walsh struggled early. Dumont and Martin led 18-17 in the opening set before the 6-foot-3 Walsh put away consecutive spikes to start a clinching 4-1 spurt. The Americans never trailed in the second set.
May and Walsh are the only team -- men's or women's -- which hasn't dropped a set in Athens. They haven't lost a set to McPeak and Youngs since August 2003, a span of seven matches.
"Now it's 0-0," May said. "Those matches don't count. Kerri and I just need to concentrate on what we do on our side, and everything will fall into place."
In other quarterfinals Sunday:
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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