The Professional Volleyball Tour (AVP) makes its annual west coast swing and arrives at the Mecca of the sport, Manhattan Beach.
Some 25,000 fans, Fox Sports, NBC, Sports Illustrated and DIG: magazine (The SI of the sport) make the journey to cover the dynamic athletes and fierce competition.
As in any sport, fans have their favorites. The womens bracket has been dominated all year by the team of Misty May and Kerri Walsh. The pair have won 90 straight matches and have earned enough points to be the leading team at the Athens games. The team of Jenny Johnson Jordan (daughter of former Olympian Rafer Johnson and Annette Davis) are playing well and have begun to capture some of the form that propelled them into the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
The men have had a variety of winning teams this year. The duo of former Olympic gold medalist Dain Blanton and his new partner Jeff Nygaard have earned enough tour points to virtually lock their position as qualifiers for Athens. Some may remember that Dain Blanton (one of the few African Americans in the sport) and his former partner Eric Fanoimoana, who were not expected to win a medal in Sydney, won the gold with a flourish. Unfortunately, due to time zones and NBC priorities, the final was not seen live in the U.S.
The title at Manhattan is much coveted by the players. Upon winning, he team has their names immortalized on a special medallion which is permanently drilled into the pier.
The veteran duo of Holly McPeak and Elain Youngs defeated and ended the 90 match winning streak of May and Walsh and are Manhattans Queens of the Beach. This win was extra special for Holly as her husband who is former Shaquille ONeil agent and AVP commissioner Leonard Armato.
In the mens draw, volleyball legend and former UCLA great Karch Kiraly (age 43) teamed with partner Mike Lambert to win his 145th career match. Kiraly has enjoyed special longevity on the tour and is considered an extremely tough competitor as well as the ambassador of the sport. Next week its on to San Diego as the march toward Athens continues.
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