A Magical Day at the Beach
Manhattan Beach provided the perfect setting for a day that will go down as one of the most memorable in beach volleyball.
The seemingly invincible women’s pairing of Misty May and Kerri Walsh lost for the first time on U.S. soil in the semifinals of the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Nissan Series Manhattan Beach Open, but that was only the beginning of the thrill ride Sunday at the Manhattan Beach Pier.
Holly McPeak teamed with Elaine Youngs for the women’s title and set a record for most career victories with 68. Later, legendary men’s player Karch Kiraly, 43, notched career victory No. 145, extending his records for victories and for oldest player to win an AVP event.
It all added to the lore of Manhattan Beach, the mecca of beach volleyball.
“Manhattan Beach brings out the best in everybody,” Kiraly said. “You talk to any player and if they were told they could only win one tournament in their whole career, everybody would choose it to be here in Manhattan, so there’s extra fire among all the players.”
Early Sunday, that fire belonged to Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan. They teamed for a 21-19, 21-19 semifinal victory over May and Walsh, the top-ranked team in the world. It ended a 15-tournament win streak for May and Walsh, and a string of 90 consecutive match victories. The last time May and Walsh failed to win a tournament they entered was July 2003 in Norway. They had been 12 for 12 in AVP tournaments since early 2003.
“I never, ever want to lose, and I hate the feeling I have right now,” Walsh said. “But I also kind of feel relief that the streak is over. Ultimately it will make us stronger.”
For Davis and Johnson Jordan, it was bittersweet because they ended up losing to McPeak and Youngs, 21-19, 16-21, 15-12, in the final. For McPeak, the milestone win couldn’t have come at a better place.
“It was perfect,” she said. “I want to win every tournament I enter. I mean the record is in the back of my head, but E.Y. and I have been playing really good volleyball and we wanted to win this tournament; the record is just icing on the cake.”
McPeak and Youngs said Saturday they would have liked to be the ones to end May and Walsh’s streak, but they were not disappointed it didn’t happen.
“They’re beatable, and we knew that,” McPeak said. “It’s an incredible thing that they just did, and I don’t think it will ever be done again, but now it’s a long season and we have to keep playing.”
For Davis and Johnson Jordan, being streak killers wasn’t the ultimate goal, but it serves as a confidence booster in their pursuit of making the Olympics.
“We’ve almost beaten them before, and we know if we play really well, we can beat anyone,” Davis said. “It’s a great accomplishment, but I think it’s more important that we get to the finals and win.”
For Kiraly, it was the eighth title of his career at Manhattan Beach, a title he first won in 1980 with Sinjin Smith. Kiraly and Mike Lambert beat Casey Jennings and Matt Fuerbringer, 21-15, 21-18, Sunday.
“It’s sweeter because I know I don’t have that much longer to play,” Kiraly said. “They don’t come as often as they did in the ‘90s, but it’s a tougher and deeper field than ever, so this is a great accomplishment.”
Making it even sweeter was helping Lambert to his first beach volleyball victory.
“It’s just so storybook,” Lambert said. “To do it at Manhattan with Karch Kiraly, it’s so awesome and so special.”