The women's pro volleyball tour makes a stop this weekend in Hermosa Beach, and if the $10,000 purse doesn't sound impressive in this era of multimillion-dollar contracts, consider this: Some of the top professionals have been training in the South Bay since May to be ready.
For the first time, the tour is offering the elite duos enough money to make training a serious endeavor.
The women train three days a week, up to five hours a day, in the sand, going through technique and conditioning drills as well as games to prepare for upcoming tournaments.
This weekend's tournament will feature a round-robin schedule from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, all matches being single games to 15 points. On Sunday, the top six teams will play best-of-three series starting at 8 a.m. Finals should begin at about 1 p.m. All matches will be played just north of the Hermosa Beach pier. Winners will split $2,600, with runners-up winning $1,900.
A workout this week featured a gamut of players, from undefeated tour leaders Linda Chisholm and Jackie Silva to tour newcomers, including former UCLA star Merja Connolly and recent college graduate Marie Stielow.
Their warm-up drills--high-speed digging and blocking routines, three-on-two scrimmages and taxing quickness drills--immediately separate the workouts from fun-in-the-sun beach volleyball.
Pat Zartman, who has organized and coached volleyball in the South Bay on every level and is running the workouts (his wife, Sharkey, is a veteran tour player), said: "A few of the players started the idea last year. It lets them get acclimated to the heat and the conditions since that's what they'll be playing in. (The drills) tend to be beneficial because they're faster. The games actually tend to be slower."
Chisholm, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, and Silva, a two-time Brazilian Olympian, play in pro indoor leagues in the winter. They said the money and sponsorship that are finally coming to the beach tour make the extra training worthwhile.
"That's our living," Chisholm said. "We have to push hard to make sure we win. The tour is better than last year. There are a few really good teams. We had trouble last weekend with a team that plays like we do."
Silva said: "It's hard to play on the beach. You have to get technique and ball control and physical conditioning. Now we have good money. For me, it's my work."
The top-seeded Chisholm and Silva appear to have eclipsed former champions Nina Matthies with Julie Schaar and Kathy Gregory with Janice Opalinski as the beach's top combo. Other top contenders are Patty Dodd with Dale Hall and Lori Kotas with Gail Castro.
Gregory, the tour veteran at 41 and one of the most honored players ever in women's volleyball, actually paired the 6-foot-2 Chisholm with the compact, explosive Silva. Chisholm said: "I was still in Italy. Jackie was looking for a partner. Kathy really got us together. Now she says she's created a monster. It seems like everybody now has a mental thing about us--they don't think they can beat us. It's like it used to be with Nina (Matthies). Last week we were down 12-3 and won 15-12."
ESPN will tape Sunday's semifinals and championship for future telecast.