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VOLLEYBALL LAGUNA BEACH OPEN : Changing Partners Makes Women’s Tournament Unpredictable

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fans walking by the large drawing board that served as the women’s pairings bracket at the Laguna Beach Open volleyball tournament Friday had to stop and do a double-take.

“Hey, Silva and Opalinski aren’t together anymore,” said one person. “What’s going to happen now ?”

Jackie Silva of Redondo Beach and Janice Opalinski of San Juan Capistrano, the dominant team on the tour this season, parted ways this week, starting a chain reaction of partner-swapping on the Women’s Professional Volleyball Assn. tour.

Silva and new partner Karolyn Kirby of San Diego, the top-seeded team, advanced to the winner’s bracket semifinals today against fourth-seeded Gail Castro of Carlsbad and Lori Kotas of Cardiff.

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Opalinski and Lisa Strand of Pacific Palisades, seeded third, play second-seeded Nina Matthies of Oxnard and Elaine Roque of Santa Barbara in the other semifinal.

The top three teams in the men’s tournament advanced to the semifinals of the double-elimination tournament.

Top-seeded Shawn Davis of Los Angeles and Mike Whitmarsh of San Diego will play fifth-seeded Andy Fishburn of Los Angeles and Dane Selznick of Santa Monica.

In the other semifinal, second-seeded Bob Chavez of Los Angeles and Steve Rottman of Santa Monica will play third-seeded Pete Aronchick of Culver City and Mike Boehle of Santa Monica.

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But while the men’s tournament had few surprises, the breakup between Silva and Opalinski had some of the top players scrambling to find new partners.

The change also caused confusion for a tournament in Hawaii next week. Silva and Opalinski had qualified as one of the eight teams for the invitational tournament, but the breakup caused the top teams to jumble their lineups.

“I’m not resentful toward her but I’m upset that she didn’t hold her commitment through Hawaii,” Opalinski said. “At first we agreed to play the first three tournaments together. Then we agreed to play through Hawaii. I told Jackie that I was disappointed with that.”

Silva and Opalinski won the first five tournaments this season before losing to Kirby and Patty Dodd in the finals of the Huntington Beach Open two weeks ago. They lost to Linda Chisholm-Carrillo and Linda Hanley in the finals of the Fresno Open last week.

In the last year, Silva has won 16 of 20 tournaments with four partners--Opalinski, Rita Crockett-Royster, Patty Dodd and Linda Chisholm-Carrillo.

“We’re both strong-minded and I let a lot of things go,” Opalinski said. “We both worked through a lot of things.”

Opalinski said Silva called her on Monday and told her she was changing partners. Opalinski, a former standout at Dana Hills, and Strand, an all-American at the University of Hawaii, practiced together one time before their matches Friday.

Their toughest test came in the second round, when they beat sixth-seeded Chisholm-Carrillo and Hanley, 15-12.

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“It’s refreshing to have a new partner,” Opalinski said. “The pressure of playing with Silva was lifted. Lisa and I have the attitude that we’ll go out and have fun, win or lose. We’re pretty high on emotion.”

Aronchick knows what Opalinski’s going through. He won the Laguna Beach Open with Mark Eller last year, but Eller decided to play in the Manhattan Beach Open this weekend instead of Laguna.

“This change is good for me,” Aronchick said. “Mark and I were playing on the (Assn. of Volleyball Professionals) tour and it was just like we were husband and wife, fighting a little bit.”

So Aronchick chose Boehle, who he also plays pickup basketball with, to be his partner at Laguna. They cruised into the semifinals, beating Mike Stafford of Laguna Beach and Bill Suwara of Los Angeles, 15-11, in a second-round match.

“It’s good to be back at Laguna,” Aronchick said. “I’m sure it’ll be a madhouse (Saturday).”

Volleyball Notes

The women’s semifinals are at 9 a.m. today with the men’s scheduled for 2 p.m. A four-player, co-ed tournament also will begin today. The men and women are competing for a combined $52,500 in prize money. The tournament finals, which start Sunday at noon, will be taped and televised at a later date.


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