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Aronchick and Eller Weather Rally, Win Laguna Open Title

Times Staff Writer

Pete Aronchick and Mark Eller beat the heat and played power volleyball to defeat Dane Selznick and Andy Fishburn, 15-9, to win the men’s invitational division title in the 35th Laguna Open Monday at Laguna Beach.

It was the fifth professional beach volleyball victory for Eller, 30, and the first for Aronchick, who will share the $20,625 first-place prize. Selznick and Fishburn will share $8,625.

The absence of top professionals such as Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos and defending champions Jon Stevenson and Pat Powers opened the door for Aronchick, a Culver City native who played professional basketball in Australia and the Continental Basketball Assn., and Eller of Santa Monica.

The top 32 men’s players were in an Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tournament at Manhattan Beach.

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Fishburn and Selznick trailed, 6-0, but fought back with great defense and some well-placed shallow shots over the blocks of the 6-foot-7 Aronchick.

Selznick, who has won 13 professional beach events, did not play like a man only recently recovered from hepatitis. The son of Laguna Open’s first champion, Gene Selznick, Selznick brought his team to within 9-8 with a spike to the corner.

But Aronchick and Eller took command by scoring the next five points.

The fierce heat and fatigue took their toll on the losers, who had to play six games--including two Monday morning--to win the losers’ bracket in the double-elimination tournament.

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Aronchick and Eller were undefeated in the winners’ bracket and had Monday morning off.

“Fatigue was definitely a factor for me,” Selznick said. “I haven’t played in a year and I got every serve in this tournament, every serve.”

Eller, 30, said the plan was to serve to Selznick. “Andy (Fishburn) is a stronger offensive player and we just felt with a strong block on Dane, because Pete is 6-7, I could run down some of Dane’s shots. (Our) feeling was he wouldn’t be able to hit against such a big block, and it worked out.”

The women’s team of defending champion Janice Opalinski (Dana Hills and UC Irvine), who this year teamed with Linda Chisholm-Carrillo, defeated an erratic Judy Bellomo and Lisa Strand, 15-6, in the women’s final to earn $8,250. Bellomo and Strand came up through the losers’ bracket after losing to Opalinski and Chisholm-Carrillo, 15-7, Sunday.

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The victory was the second this season for Opalinski and Chisholm-Carrillo. “We have worked long and hard to be here. It’s a nice payoff,” Opalinski said.

“We came out ready to play. It was kind of anti-climactic because Judy and Lisa were not really on their game because they were so nervous because it was their first time in the finals (of any professional volleyball tournament).”

The nervousness translated into numerous unforced errors by Bellomo, 23, of Glendale, the tour’s rookie of the year in 1988, and Strand, 30, who helped lead the University of Hawaii to national championships in 1982 and ’83.

“Yesterday and today, it was the same thing,” Bellomo said. “They served us and we hit out. They didn’t hit us. They didn’t dig us. Pathetic is a good word for (our performance).”

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Said Chisholm-Carrillo, who was an Olympic silver medalist in 1984: “We were just concentrating on serving tough so they couldn’t pass or spike as well.”


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