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VOLLEYBALL ORANGE COUNTY OPEN : Stevenson Sends Memo to Competition With a Victory in Quarterfinals

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jon Stevenson put aside his administrative duties as president of the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals and showed his colleagues on Saturday that he still knows how to play the game. Stevenson and Mike Whitmarsh teamed up for a quarterfinal victory in the $100,000 Miller Lite Orange County Open. They upset the second-seeded team of Brent Frohoff and Mike Dodd, 15-8, in a gusty wind that played havoc all afternoon with the nation’s finest pro beach volleyball players.

The victory moves the 10th-seeded team of Stevenson and Whitmarsh into today’s semifinals of the winners’ bracket, where they will meet Leif Hanson and Eric Wurts at 9:30 a.m. Top-seeded Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos advanced easily to the other semifinal bracket, where they will meet Rudy Dvorak and Bruk Vandeweghe at 9 a.m.

A crowd of 5,000 watched Dodd make an unsuccessful debut with Frohoff after severing an eight-year partnership with Tim Hovland. Frohoff made several key mistakes, hitting the ball long twice in falling behind, 9-5, and then later hitting the net to fall further behind, 14-8.

Stevenson clinched the surprising victory with an ace near the line that Frohoff failed to reach. In his frustration, Frohoff spiked the ball halfway to the pier. Afterward, Stevenson said he didn’t know what to expect going into the match.

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“I’ve missed so many tournaments this year because I’ve been sick and then had a shoulder injury, that I went into this tournament blind,” he said. “I haven’t had a good tournament in two months.

“I’ve been focusing on my job as an administrator, but it’s hard to give up that wonderful feeling of being an athlete. All things being equal, these guys (Dodd-Frohoff) would probably beat us nine times out of 10. But the wind helped us quite a bit and took them out of their game.”

Stevenson has enjoyed a measure of success at Seal Beach, teaming with Pat Powers to win in 1984 and then coming back to win again last year with Kent Steffes. But he has missed most of the 1990 season and didn’t form a partnership with Whitmarsh until three weeks ago.

The team of Stevenson-Whitmarsh hasn’t exactly been on a tear coming into the tour stop at Seal Beach, having finished ninth in Cleveland and 13th last week in Chicago. Stevenson is undecided whether he will play on the circuit next season.

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“I deserve to stay on for another term as president, and if I’m re-elected, I’ll quit (the tour) and become a full-time administrator,” he said. “The tour has gotten so big and I’ve assumed so many responsibilities as president that I couldn’t play all the tournaments.”

Consistency has been the name of the game for the team of Smith-Stoklos, the leading money-winners on the 1990 AVP tour with $152,287. Smith-Stoklos have won nine tournaments and have reached the finals in 16 of the 21 events.

It’s a good bet Smith-Stoklos will reach another championship match at Seal Beach, judging by Saturday’s short work in two matches. Smith-Stoklos were barely tested in a 15-8 victory over Pat Powers-Roger Clark.

“Professionals make it look easy,” Stoklos said. “The wind conditions are a great equalizer, and I think you’ll see more upsets with these type of conditions. The team with the best ball control will come up on top, and we control the ball as good or better than anybody on the tour.”

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Smith-Stoklos were masters at low passes in the brisk wind, setting the ball quickly and repeatedly getting strong hits. Smith served an uncanny sky ball into the wind that barely cleared the net, and Clark had a problem setting the serve for a crucial point in the match.

Earlier, Smith-Stoklos defeated 16th-seeded Eric Boyles-Gene LeDuff, 15-0, to serve notice that the kings of the beach were gearing for a big tournament.

“We’re on the top of our game coming off the win in Chicago,” Stoklos said. “I really enjoy playing in Southern California because the fans are so knowledgeable. Their knowledge of the game really drives the players.”

Asked why the team has been so successful in 1990, Stoklos said, “We have something the other teams don’t have. There’s a physical and mental chemistry between Sinjin and myself. We have an inner drive to win that few can match. The pressure is on the other teams to beat us.”

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It was a disappointing day for the team of Steve Timmons and Adam Johnson. The eighth-seeded team lost a tough match to ninth-seeded Powers-Clark, 15-10, and later was eliminated by a 15-12 loss to Robert Chavez-Steve Rottman in the losers’ bracket.

Despite the poor showing, Timmons said he is enjoying his first season on the pro beach tour after winning gold medals in the 1984 and ’88 Olympic games.

“I went into the season with no preparation,” he said. “I was re-modeling my home and had taken a break from volleyball. I trained for two weeks before the season started and wasn’t ready.

“I’ve taken a 180-degree turn since the season started. My confidence, ability and knowledge of the beach game has increased tremendously. I feel really comfortable now and feel I’m playing some of my best beach volleyball. I’m having fun.”

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Timmons, a Newport Harbor High School graduate, will have to re-adjust to the traditional indoor game when he begins playing for Ravenna in the Italian League in October. Timmons signed a two-year deal for a reported $1.2 million.

“I’m going to have to change my game every six months, but that way I won’t get burned out,” he said.

It has been two weeks since the well-chronicled breakup between Tim Hovland and Mike Dodd that severed an eight-year partnership, but Dodd called the move “a breath of fresh air for both of us.”

Dodd teamed with Frohoff for the first time on the AVP circuit, but said he has played with his new partner “a million times on Manhattan Beach.”

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Look for some more juggling of partners before the season is over. Dodd said he will play with Scott Ayakatubby in the Cuervo Open in San Diego Aug. 10-11 and then likely team with Timmons for the Seattle Open Aug. 18-19.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Dodd, who along with Hovland was the leading money-winner on the circuit last year with $162,287 each. “I’ll never be as good as if I was practicing with the same partner all the time like I did with Tim, but it’s fun.”

Stoklos said the Dodd-Hovland breakup only helped the Smith-Stoklos team.

“It (the breakup) was a benefit to us,” Stoklos said. “They had nine years of knowledge playing together as a team and that’s gone. Their knowledge and experience was worth two to three points a game.”

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Results

Quarterfinals

Winners’ Bracket

Sinjin Smith (Pacific Palisades) and Randy Stoklos (Pacific Palisades) d. Pat Powers (San Diego) and Roger Clark (Pacific Palisades), 15-8.

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Rudy Dvorak (Laguna Beach) and Bruk Vandeweghe (Westwood) d. Andrew Smith (Pacific Palisades) and Dan Verbalovich (Costa Mesa), 15-8.

Leif Hanson (Laguna Beach) and Eric Wurts (Newport Beach) d. John Hanley (Pacific Palisades) and Ricci Luyties (Pacific Palisades), 15-11.

Jon Stevenson (Manhattan Beach) and Mike Whitmarsh (San Diego) d. Mike Dodd (El Segundo) and Brent Frohoff (Hermosa Beach), 15-8.

Losers’ Bracket

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Wally Goodrick (Pacific Palisades) and Larry Mear (San Clemente) d. Pono Maa (Honolulu) and Pete Aronchick (Culver City), 15-4.

Robert Chavez (Playa del Rey) and Steve Rottman (Los Angeles) d. Steve Timmons (Manhattan Beach) and Adam Johnson (Laguna Beach), 15-12.

Semifinal Pairings

Losers’ Bracket

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8 a.m.--Goodrick-Mear vs. Hanley-Luyties; Gene LeDuff-Eric Boyles vs. Tim Walmer-Al Janc; Scott Friederichsen-Craig Moothart vs. Brian Lewis-Owen McKibbin; Chavez-Rothman vs. Dodd-Frohoff.

Winners’ Bracket

9 a.m.--Smith-Stoklos vs. Dvorak-Vandeweghe; 9:30--Hansen-Wurts vs. Stevenson-Whitmarsh.

2 p.m.--championship match.

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