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Women's winners show veteran moxie

Elaine Youngs and Barbra Fontana rally in beach tourney final. Dax Holdren and Todd Rogers win the men's title.

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2001


CLEARWATER BEACH -- Trailing 15-7 and playing a brand of scattered volleyball unbefitting their No. 1 seed, Elaine Youngs spoke for her and teammate Barbra Fontana by shouting that their play was "pathetic."

"Now let's go," Youngs growled.

And they did. Though too far behind to win Game 1, Fontana and Youngs carried over a late rally in the opener Sunday to capture the women's championship 18-21, 21-10, 15-7 at the Beach Volleyball America tournament.

In the men's final, Hawaiians Stein Metzger and Kevin Wong couldn't follow up their semifinal upset of Olympic gold medalists Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana as the third-seeded team of Dax Holdren and Todd Rogers won 21-15, 21-16.

Both championship teams, who are from California, collected $15,000. They credited their vast experience, as both their opponents were playing together for the first time.

For Youngs and Fontana, 1996 Olympians with more than 200 events between them, that experience helped ward off an early charge by Holly McPeak and Rachel Wacholder. While McPeak is second in all-time wins, Wacholder was in her 14th event. That inexperience proved costly when Youngs and Fontana increased the pace after dropping the first game.

"We went at Rachel a little more," Youngs said. "I think she got intimidated. Once she got blocked, it changed her. Barb dug some of her kills, and we were touching all of her shots. That gave us an advantage."

Fontana had seven digs in the second game (McPeak and Wacholder had one apiece) and also had seven kills (McPeak and Wacholder combined for six). Youngs, at 6 feet the tallest player on the court by 3 inches, had some early blocks that appeared to take some zip out of later kill attempts.

"Elaine is a big blocker and just kind of took over in the second game," McPeak said.

A 6-0 run in the third game led to a 10-3 lead in the clincher as the winners led McPeak and Wacholder 12-5 in kills.

Youngs won the last event at Clearwater Beach in 1999 when she teamed with Liz Masakayan.

The men's match lacked the drama of the women's final and probably was hurt by the absence of top-seeded Blanton and Fonoimoana, the 1999 winners. But Metzger and Wong, seeded fourth, took them out 19-21, 21-15 and 19-17 in the semifinals.

In the title match, they never really threatened. The pair, members of UCLA's 1995 NCAA championship team, was playing as a beach team for the first time.

Holdren and Rogers have played together since high school and Sunday was their seventh win. "That kind of chemistry is worth at least 4-5 points a match," Holdren said. "Especially with rally scoring (points scored on every serve). You can't afford to give up points because the game goes quickly. The other way maybe you have time to get into a groove and give up a point here or there."

Both games were tied at 6 before Holdren and Rogers pulled away.

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