Some baby steps
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have done just about everything a beach volleyball team could do: They won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and are ranked No. 1 in the world. May-Treanor has 102 championships in her career, a record among women, while Walsh has 99.
But ask what they’ll be doing a year from now, and the answer has little to do with beach volleyball.
“Hopefully, we’ll both be pregnant,” Walsh said. “Pregnant, but with two gold medals.”
The duo will participate in the Olympics and finish this year’s Assn. of Volleyball Players Tour before taking a hiatus from playing to try to start families with their husbands. For now, May-Treanor, who lives in Long Beach, and Walsh, a Hermosa Beach resident, have no plans to retire and intend to return to the AVP after a break, but May-Treanor said the plan could change.
“I don’t want to throw the R-word in there, but I mean, I haven’t had a kid, I don’t know,” May-Treanor said. “Priorities change, and it’s tough what we do, traveling internationally and domestically, and if I feel like I can come back two years down the road or whatever and want to give it a go, great.”
But for the next few weeks, family will have to remain on hold as May-Treanor, 31, and Walsh, who turns 31 on Aug. 15, try to capture their second gold medal. Heading into Beijing, they’ve won 18 straight tournaments, one of their many records, in both international and AVP play.
Not all of those victories have been runaways, with one of the closest coming against fellow Olympians Elaine Youngs and Nicole Branagh at the Dallas Open in April. May-Treanor and Walsh prevailed 17-21, 21-14, 15-13; adversity like that in close matches has helped them prepare for whatever comes their way on the Olympic stage.
“We’ve been in every single possible situation against all of these teams and we’ve beaten all of them,” Walsh said. “So, when we’re tight we know we can pull ahead, and when we’re down we know we can come back.”
Walsh added that a little nonverbal communication can go a long way.
“It’s never a straightforward game,” Walsh said. “The ball’s always bouncing somewhere. I think it’s just a feeling; you know, we’ve been playing this for so long that I know where Misty wants the ball and where she’s going to be and vice versa.”
Their streak of 18 tournament wins also includes 101 consecutive match wins. Their last loss came in August 2007 to Youngs and Branagh at the AVP’s Boston Open, which prompts the question: Aren’t they due to lose?
“That’s a bad question,” Walsh said with a laugh.
May-Treanor added: “If you ask us, no. But we know we have to play tough from the start. Everybody’s a threat once you’re over there.”
Walsh said winning this year’s gold medal wouldn’t compare to 2004’s because beach volleyball has more competition than it had four years ago, but she doesn’t see that as a problem.
“Every time we step on the court we absolutely want to demolish those teams and give them no hope, none,” Walsh said. “We have so much respect for our opponents, but we have every ability and capability of dominating them, if we do our jobs.”
May-Treanor and Walsh, who will be competing in their third Olympics, have been playing together since 2001, which is a long time compared with most beach volleyball partnerships.
“Our relationship is very solid, friendship-wise, partnership-wise, and winning certainly helps,” Walsh said. “It makes the little things that can drive you crazy kind of go by the wayside.”
But achieving all this success hasn’t come without some sacrifice.
For May-Treanor, it has meant giving up time with her husband, Florida Marlins catcher Matt Treanor. The two married only months after May-Treanor won her gold medal in 2004. Since then, finding time to spend together, especially when both are in-season, has been difficult. The AVP Tour lasts roughly from April to October, the same months as the baseball season, and during that time the two can go months without seeing each other.
“Communication is a big part of it, and whenever I have time off I travel to see him,” May-Treanor said. “It’s just temporary and there’s nothing you can do; it’s just our careers. He’s very understanding and he knows what it takes and he knew what he was getting into.”
Walsh gets more face time with her husband. In 2005, she married Casey Jennings, a member of the AVP Tour, but the two have also delayed having a child. Gold medal or not, Walsh is ready to start a family.
“The greatest accomplishment of all is having a baby,” she said.
That’ll mean giving up volleyball, but only for a while. “London in 2012 isn’t too far away,” Walsh said.