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Volleyball Team Stages Stirring Comeback

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dessert went down easy, but the following course proved a bit harder to swallow.

Jackie Silva and Janice Opalinski, the first place finishers through two stops of the Hilton Flamingo Women’s Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, came to an agreement Saturday night over dinner. Silva had committed to play with Opalinski through only three tournaments and after the finals of Sunday’s San Diego Open at Pacific Beach, that commitment ran dry.

But Brazil’s Silva and San Juan Capistrano’s Opalinski were the hottest team on the beach, and over dessert, Silva extended that commitment.

The next morning Silva-Opalinski suffered their first defeat of the season, a 15-4 loss in a semifinal of the winner’s bracket to Santa Barbara’s Eliane Roque and Oxnard’s Nina Matthies. The loss sent them to the loser’s bracket, where they won three games and the right for a rematch against Roque-Matthies in the championship.

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Deja vu it wasn’t. Silva-Opalinski fought back from deficits of 10-4 and 14-9 to win 16-14 and force a seven-point tiebreaker which they won quickly and decisively, 7-1.

“Fatigue was a factor,” Opalinski said. “It’s very rare to come out of the loser’s bracket and win, and it’s almost unheard of to come back from 14-9 and win. But we were able to make the shots.”

Roque-Matthies, who had finished fifth twice, served for the match and the $6,000 prize money five times, but as their lead dwindled, so did their aggressiveness.

“As Jackie got tougher, we got more tentative,” said Roque. “Janice, we were able to control. It’s Jackie you have to watch out for, and we let her get into the game.”

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And the wind took Roque-Matthies out of it. After leading 14-9, they served into the wind on three match points, and failed on all.

“It’s tough to serve into the wind,” said Opalinski.

Said Silva: “They lost three important serves. I thought then they didn’t want this game. They had 14 and they were so nervous.”

Roque-Matthies started to play scared and Silva-Opalinski, tough on the block and using an off-speed game that gives opponents fits, oozed confidence.

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“I thought we could do it,” said Opalinski. “A lot of prayers were answered. Jackie and I are very competitive, very tenacious. We want to go for every point. The mental edge is such an asset.”

That edge was put to a test earlier in the day against San Diego’s Karolyn Kirby and Colombia’s Patty Dodd in the loser’s bracket final. Behind 14-11, Silva-Opalinski regrouped and pulled out a 16-14 victory.

“It’s tough to play that many games,” Opalinski said, “but I thought we’d be OK.”

Roque-Matthies split $4,500 for their second place finish and Dodd-Kirby, second in the first two stops, won $3,250 for third. Linda Carrillo of Van Nuys and Angela Rock of San Diego finished fourth and won $2,200.

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