It was more than a 10-tournament winning streak that ended Sunday when Patty Dodd and Jackie Silva lost the U.S. Championship women's volleyball event at the Manhattan Beach pier.
It was also the end of a partnership.
The day after Linda Chisholm-Carrillo and Janice Opalinski upset the top-ranked team on the women's circuit--only the second loss for Silva and Dodd in 14 events this season--Silva called Dodd at her El Segundo home and informed her she would be finishing the season with U.S. Olympian Rita Crockett.
"I'm really upset," said Dodd, who was scrambling for a new partner Monday night. "There's nothing I can do. I'd love to keep playing with her, but there have been problems with our friendship. I can't force her. Right before (the) Pismo (Beach) tournament Aug. 5-6, we started having problems."
"Right now it doesn't work like it should work," Silva said. "I think different than Patty."
Both women agreed that their problems are based in philosophical differences, not in performance on the court. But Silva said she has difficulty separating the two.
"Last weekend I tried to be professional and play volleyball," said the former member of the Brazilian national team. "Many times I've had to play when I don't want to. But it's not easy to play when you're not happy. My body was so sore and, at the end, I was cramping, but that doesn't matter. This game you play more with emotions."
It was the emotion, Silva said, that was missing. And despite coming back out of the loser's bracket to beat her former partner Chisholm-Carrillo and Opalinski, forcing the tie breaker, Silva said she didn't have enough to pull it out.
"It's hard for us to get along," Silva said. "When we started, it was different. We worked close during the beginning, when we started working out. (But later), we just couldn't communicate outside the court."
Dodd and Silva agreed that the problems grew out of their differences in approach with the Women's Professional Volleyball Assn., a player's board that governs the women's tour.
Ironically, both women agreed that the WPVA needs a lot of improvement. But resentment apparently grew out of their different approaches to the issues.
Dodd said she would speak up at WPVA meetings, trying to share knowledge she had gained from her husband, top men's player Mike Dodd, about the successes of the men's Assn. of Volleyball Professionals. The board would always listen--but didn't always agree.
"Hopefully, in September I'll be elected to the board and then I'll have a say," Dodd said.
Silva, however, refused to take the political approach and was irritated by Dodd's willingness to remain friendly with members of the WPVA leadership.
"I don't want to talk to them, I don't want to make friends with them," Silva said. "It's hard because (Dodd) is always staying on one side and I on the other. they can talk to Patty and, me, I'm a monster."
The events Monday mark the second time this year that Silva has divided the top-seeded team on the women's tour. After losing just two tournaments in two years with Chisholm-Carrillo, she shifted to Dodd after the pair won an off-season Super Bowl Sunday event in Florida.
They seemed to be compatible both on the court and off. Dodd, a native Colombian, shared cultural similarities with Silva, who said she never felt close to Chisholm-Carrillo.
And on the court, their lightening-quick style of play left opposing players searching for a weakness they could exploit. Silva is considered by most the best female beach player in the world and Dodd, a smooth passer and powerful hitter, appeared to complement her perfectly.
But the problems developed and, before the weekend tournament, Silva had indicated to Dodd that she would play with Crockett in the last tournament of the season in Cincinnati. On Monday, however, she decided that she would make the switch before this weekend's World Championships at Will Rogers State Beach.
It is ironic that it was Chisholm-Carrillo and Opalinski who beat them in the $20,000 U.S Championship event, two weeks after the same match-up ended in Silva-Dodd's 15-3 drubbing of their rivals in Hermosa Beach.
Chisholm-Carrillo and Opalinski earned a spot in Sunday's championship game by routing Silva and Dodd, 15-8, in the winner's bracket finals--their first victory over their rivals after losing the first seven games between them. Then, after the top seeds won the consolation game to return to the finals, Silva and Dodd beat Chisholm-Carrillo and Opalinski in the championship match, 15-7, forcing a rare "double final."
Since the Dodd-Silva victory gave both teams one loss in the double-elimination tournament, the teams played a seven-point sudden-death final. It was in that short match that Chisholm-Carrillo's work during the week paid off.
"Patty has such a fast wrist, a fast arm, that you have to come up on her quicker," said the 6-foot-2 Chisholm-Carrillo, who also won a tournament with Opalinski early in the season in Cleveland. "This past week, I worked on blocking with our coach, Pat Zartman. He stood on a chair and showed me the difference between a fast and a slow hit. Jackie sets quickly, a low set, and Patty comes in fast and swings."
In the sudden-death final, Chisholm-Carrillo was ready for it. She put down two blocks for points and Chisholm-Carrillo and Opalinski won it, 7-3.
"Blocking did become a big factor," Dodd said. "(Chisholm-Carrillo) got two or three points and those are big blocks in a game to seven. She was real aggressive. I've got to give her credit."
For Chisholm-Carrillo, it was a satisfying win and, she hopes, the begining of a strong ending in a season that has had frustrating moments.
The U.S. Championship was important because it was a $20,000 tournament and it carries a title," said the former Olympian. "I think we're really on now. Toward the end of the season we've been playing better.
"It would really be nice to win the World Championship next week. It's the most important tournament of the year."