Rita Crockett-Royster and Lisa Strand-Ma'a always get a late start on the women's pro beach volleyball season.
With Crockett-Royster playing professionally in Italy eight months of the year, she gets no time to train with Strand-Ma'a.
"We have to be patient with each other," Crockett-Royster said.
But Strand-Ma'a and Crockett-Royster, playing in only their fourth tournament of the season, pulled two of the biggest upsets at the $50,000 Seal Beach Open Saturday at the Seal Beach Pier.
Seeded 11th, they defeated sixth-seeded Patty Dodd and Jackie Silva, 15-13, in the second round, then shocked third-seeded Gail Castro and Lori Kotas, 15-6, in the quarterfinals.
Strand-Ma'a and Crockett-Royster advanced to the winners' bracket semifinals of the double-elimination tournament, where they will meet second-seeded Liz Masakayan and Linda Chisholm-Carrillo.
Top-seeded Karolyn Kirby and Angela Rock will meet fourth-seeded Janice Opalinski-Harrer and Nancy Reno.
Strand-Ma'a and Crockett-Royster already have finished higher than in any previous tournament this season. They're guaranteed no worse than fifth, two places higher than their previous best this season.
"We're starting to put it all together," said Crockett-Royster, who was a member of the silver-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic volleyball team and lives in Costa Mesa.
"It's hard to train for the beach when you're playing indoors, and that's my full-time job. Lisa has been patient with me coming back."
Strand-Ma'a and Crockett-Royster are 0-2 against Chisholm-Carrillo and Masakayan, but Strand-Ma'a likes their chances today.
"Any team is beatable," she said. "But we're going to have to play as well as we played today."
Gone with the wind: Winds gusting up to 13 m.p.h. forced many of the players to adjust their games, especially their serve. "The wind was definitely a factor," Strand-Ma'a said. "It makes it a whole different game. It's like playing half-court basketball instead of full court."
Competition resumes at 9 a.m. today with losers' bracket matches. . . . The finals are tentatively scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Karolyn Kirby-Angela Rock d. Holly McPeak-Deb Richardson, 15-10; Janice Opalinski-Harrer/Nancy Reno d. Elaine Roque-Deb Fontana, 15-8; Rita Crocket/Lisa Strand-Ma'a d. Gail Castro-Lori Kotas, 15-6; Linda Chisholm-Carrillo-Liz Masakayan d. Alison Johnson-Marie Andersson, 15-4.
Kirby-Rock vs. Harrer-Reno; Strand-Ma'a/Crockett-Royster vs. Chisholm-Carrillo-Masakayan.