Winning a habit for Pavlik

As with any young professional, updating one's resume is important to Whitney Pavlik. But for the former UC Irvine women's volleyball standout who is now excelling in professional beach volleyball, recurring success had rendered such editing something akin to a full-time job.

"I'd have to look," Pavlik, 28, said when asked about her first professional tournament victory, an occurrence that is becoming commonplace this summer.

Pavlik and partner Jenny Kroop have won three straight tournaments on the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball series and will try to extend that streak at the Hermosa Beach Open, Friday though Sunday.

The Pavlik-Kroop partnership, which began in the 2010 Assn. of Volleyball Professionals season cut short when the tour went under due to financial problems, has continued to blossom. The two former AVP rookies of the Year (Pavlik in 2008, one season after the former Nebraska All-American earned the honor) collected their first victory May 27, 2011, in the Corona Light Open in Seaside, N.J.

Last season also included a triumph at the prestigious Manhattan Beach Open, as well as a Jose Cuervo tour stop in Malibu and another Corona Light event in Florida.

"It's a great feeling, but you're only as good as your last tournament," said the 6-foot Pavlik."After last season, Jenny and I worked really hard during the offseason to try to prove to everyone that we could do it again."

Determined training, which for Pavlik includes regular crossfit sessions, combined with experience, maturation and coaching tips from former AVP standout Barbara Fontana and Anna Collier, the coach of USC's sand volleyball team, has helped Pavlik and Kroop become the leading women's team on this year's domestic tours. They won the first three Jose Cuervo series events in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Belmar, N.J., and Chicago.

Chemistry is another factor in that ascension, which Pavlik hopes will put the pair in line to follow in the Olympic footsteps of former Newport Harbor High standouts Misty May-Treanor and April Ross.

May-Treanor and partner Kerri Walsh will contend for a third straight gold medal at the Olympic Games in London later this summer, where Ross and partner Jennifer Kessy will also represent the United States.

"Our chemistry makes a huge difference in our playing," Pavlik said. "Chemistry is important for any partners and we're lucky to have become really good friends."

Kroop typically handles the blocking, while Pavlik is usually charged with defense and passing. But Pavlik, who grew up playing in the sands of her native Laguna Beach, had a diverse indoor career that she believes better prepared her for the all-around aspects required of every beach professional.

"I kind of did everything in college," said the former Mater Dei High and Newport Beach-based Orange County Volleyball Club standout who spent her first two collegiate seasons at the University of Montana. "My freshman year, I was an outside hitter, then I played right side my sophomore year. My junior year, I was coming off ankle surgery, so my legs were bad and I played libero and defensive specialist. My senior season, I was the shortest middle blocker in the [Big West] conference. I think playing all those positions helped me when I moved to the beach."

Pavlik said the resurrection of the AVP tour, which under new ownership plans to put on two events this summer, has helped bolster her optimism for the future.

"It was a very depressing week," Pavlik said of news that the AVP had folded in 2010. "I think all of us were uncertain and wondering if we all needed to get real jobs, or continue playing. Jenny and I decided to continue training after Christmas, but it was a leap of faith, because we really didn't know if there were going to be any tournaments at all."

Jose Cuervo, Corona Light and the National Volleyball League have all stepped forward to help fill the competitive calendar with events. And with the top two American teams concentrating on the Federation International de Volleyball circuit overseas in preparation for the Olympics, Pavlik and Kroop have seized the No. 1 seeding domestically.

Pavlik said her string of success has helped multiply sponsorship opportunities, but she still works part time as an administrative assistant. She was also an assistant coach for the Laguna Beach High girls' team last season and she says coaching is something she thoroughly enjoys.

Ultimately, Pavlik said the 2016 Olympics are what she is working for —a fitting capper to an increasingly impressive athletic resume that is expanding all the time.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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