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VOLLEYBALL AT HERMOSA BEACH : Kiraly Is Big Help, but Steffes Is Biggest Winner

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kent Steffes left the $250,000 Miller Lite U.S. pro beach volleyball championships Sunday with the most prize money in one season, a handful of records and a title that has long eluded him.

Steffes and Karch Kiraly won their first U.S. championship with a 15-6 victory over Adam Johnson and Tim Hovland in the final at Hermosa Beach.

Steffes and Kiraly won $50,000 each, bringing Steffes’ season winnings to a record $315,740 with two events remaining. Kiraly, who missed the first five tournaments playing in Italy, has won $248,100.

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The victory was Steffes’ 17th this season, breaking the tour record of 16 set by Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos in 1987. Smith and Stoklos finished third.

Steffes has 34 career victories, but the U.S. championship was by far the biggest of his career. He and Kiraly finished a disappointing seventh at Hermosa last year.

“We’ve had a monster season coming into this tournament,” Steffes said. “If we would have come in and lost, it would have been a huge letdown. This was a great way to cap a great season.”

Said Kiraly: “It has been a great season. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another one like this.”

Kiraly and Steffes dominated the tournament, outscoring opponents, 88-34, in six matches. They trailed Hovland and Johnson, 5-4, but two kills by Kiraly started an 8-0 streak that sealed the victory.

Steffes, who finished with 10 kills, regularly served to Hovland during the streak. Hovland struggled with his passing, and Johnson had two bad sets.

“We just hit a bump in the road,” Hovland said. “I didn’t pass a couple, and Adam didn’t set a couple.

“Karch and Kent are a great team. You have to play smart to beat them.”

Kiraly and Steffes advanced to the championship match by beating Smith and Stoklos, 13-8, in the winners’ bracket final when the nine-minute rally clock expired.

Hovland and Johnson beat Smith and Stoklos, 13-11, in the losers’ bracket final. “It looked like we were dragging out there,” Stoklos said. “I don’t think Sinjin played as well as he could have.”


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