Dodd, Whitmarsh Dig Way Into Final : Volleyball: Defending champions reach today's final at Seal Beach by beating Kiraly and Steffes.

It's no secret to any professional beach volleyball player what the strategy of Mike Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh will be when they step on the court.

And they will be the first to admit it.

"The way we get points is off the block or dig because we won't get any off the serve," Whitmarsh said after a 12-7 victory over Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes in the winners' bracket final at the Miller Lite Open beach volleyball tournament Saturday.

Dodd and Whitmarsh will find out this morning whether they will face Kiraly and Steffes again or Randy Stoklos and Adam Johnson. Those two teams face off in the consolation final at 9 a.m.

The men's final will then follow around noon.

Dodd and Whitmarsh, the defending Seal Beach champions, kept the the top-seeded duo of Kiraly and Steffes from staging any of their trademark rallies and held a lead the entire match.

"They couldn't get any rallies," Whitmarsh said. "It's really important to stay on top of them."

After Dodd and Whitmarsh jumped out to a 6-2 lead, Kiraly and Steffes put together their only challenge of the match, cutting the lead to one point before the second-seeded pair rolled off four in a row for a 10-5 lead.

The highlight of the run was a fake spike by Dodd who then spun in the air and, with his back to the net, reeled off a backhand spike that landed on the line.

Dodd and Whitmarsh then were able to keep Kiraly and Steffes in the check until the rally clock expired.


Dodd, who will be 37 Saturday, said he is enjoying the twilight of his career more than he did his younger days on the tour.

"I'm really enjoying the second phase of my career," he said. "I have a new baby, a great family and a terrific partner."

"When I was younger I would just party all night and then let 'Hov' (former partner Tim Hovland) scream at me all day," he said with a grin.


In the women's semifinals, the fourth-seeded team of Sandra Pires and Jackie Silva advanced to the final with a 12-8 victory over defending champions Cammy Ciarelli and Holly McPeak.

The Brazilian pair will be looking for their second AVP tournament victory in a row when they face top-seeded Nancy Reno and Angela Rock this morning at 10.

Pires and Silva defeated Reno and Rock, 15-9, in the second round Saturday morning.


One player who left with more money in his pocket than usual is Matt Unger, who wound up in fifth place along with new partner Scott Friedrichsen. They will split $5,700.

Unger, whose previous highest AVP finish was ninth, delighted the crowd with his ability to hold his own at the net despite being only 5 feet 11.

Unger and Friedrichsen came into the tournament seeded 13th, but impressive victories over some talented teams, including No. 7 Bill (Beef) Boullianne and Eric Fonoimoana, had them playing late into the day.

At one point, Unger leaped above Boullianne to win a ball that was even with the net and the crowd roared with applause.


The team of Brian Gatzke and Jeff Rodgers also made an impressive leap from the 14th seeding all the way to fifth-place money.

Gatzke and Rodgers sent Stoklos and Johnson into the consolation bracket with a 14-11 victory Friday in the second round, forcing the third-seeded pair to win five consecutive matches Saturday to stay alive.

After Dodd and Whitmarsh sent Gatzke and Rodgers into the consolation bracket, 15-5, Stoklos and Johnson got revenge and ended their dream run.

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