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Kiraly, Johnson Pass Survival Test as Team

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The comeback road for Karch Kiraly and partner Adam Johnson was a long and grueling one Saturday in the $300,000 Hermosa Beach Grand Slam volleyball event. Kiraly and Johnson, seeded second, remained alive with four impressive victories in the losers’ bracket after being upset Friday.

Kiraly and Johnson, in only their fourth tournament together this season, started the day with a 15-13 victory over No. 16 Ricci Luyties and Jim Nichols. Then they went on to defeat No. 24 Daxton Holdren and Todd Rogers, 15-5, and No. 8 Brian Ivie and Eric Fonoimoana, 15-6. Kiraly and Johnson ended the day with a 15-6 late-afternoon victory against fourth-seeded Scott Ayakatubby and Brian Lewis.

“I’m feeling surprisingly strong,” said Kiraly who had shoulder surgery in October and missed the first half of the pro beach volleyball season. “I’m not very happy with my serving but I’m still trying to find that rhythm.”

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Kiraly and Johnson must win three matches today to make it to the final at 2 p.m. They will meet third-seeded Mike Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh, who lost to No. 7 Canyon Ceman and Dain Blanton, 15-7, in a losers’-bracket match this morning.

“It will be the first time I face them since I got hurt and I’m sure they’ll go at me quite a bit,” Kiraly said.

The top-seeded team of Kent Steffes and Jose Loiola cruised into today’s winners’-bracket final with a 15-6 victory over Fonoimoana and Ivie and a 13-10 victory over fifth-seeded Randy Stoklos and Troy Tanner. Steffes-Loiola will play Ceman-Blanton this morning.

“I think we could play a little better,” said Steffes, who has won seven of 10 tournaments with Loiola this year. “We got to kick teams when they’re down instead of letting them come back.”

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