HERMOSA BEACH --- One of the more popular, if not exactly intimidating, nicknames for the new beach volleyball pairing of Rachel Wacholder and Kerri Walsh is “the Mom team.”
Both have given birth to a baby boy since April, and they made their debut as a team this weekend at the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Hermosa Beach Open.
And, while “the Mom team” showed flashes of what may be a very successful pairing for the rest of the season, No. 3-seeded Wacholder and Walsh settled for fifth at Hermosa Beach after losing to Angie Akers and Tyra Turner, 21-11, 21-10, Saturday morning.
It was a lopsided score against a tired team for Wacholder, the 1993 Laguna Beach High graduate, and Walsh, part of the most successful AVP women’s partnership in history with Misty May-Treanor. They didn’t appear to have too much left after playing four matches Friday, including a comeback win over No. 11 Lauren Fendrick and Ashley Ivy, as well as a narrow, three-game loss to No. 2 April Ross and Jennifer Kessy.
Yet, when their tournament was over Saturday morning, there was perspective. Wacholder had baby Koa in her arms and Walsh had baby Joey.
“Yeah, I’m frustrated right now, but I’ll let go of it faster than I have in the past,” Wacholder said. “And, you know, we did accomplish something great here. I don’t know if anyone has ever really tried to [come back from childbirth] this fast in this sport. Having a boy really makes [losing] easier.”
Slow starts in both games hurt them against No. 8-seeded Akers and Turner. Wacholder and Walsh fell behind 5-1 in the first game and 7-0 in the second.
“My biggest concern was stamina, making it through a tournament and having the energy to do it,” said Wacholder, who had a C-section in early April when she gave birth to Koa. “I guess I was right. But [Friday], that was a long day. I was not expecting to have to play four matches in a day when we decided to do this, especially the first tournament. It was tough but we’re going to get more fit daily.”
The Hermosa Beach Open was the last Southern California stop of the season. Next on tap, Wacholder and Walsh will be in the Bay Area for the San Francisco Open beginning Friday.
“I think I’m going to take a lot of confidence into next weekend,” Walsh said. “We earned it, we worked our butts off and we fought. Our coach was telling us, ‘You’ve been in every situation this tournament. You’ve been up by 10 points, you’ve been down by a lot, you’ve been in Game 3s.’ We’ll show up ready to go.
Wacholder and Walsh split $6,240 for the fifth-place finish.
Laguna Beach resident Whitney Pavlik and partner Stacy Rouwenhorst finished ninth and split $3,960.