ATHENS, Greece -- Americans Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs
skipped the opening ceremony to get some extra rest for their first
Olympic beach volleyball match.
They found out Saturday night what a smart decision that was.
McPeak and Youngs, seeded No. 4, cruised past 21st-seeded
Norwegians Susanne Glesnes and Kathrine Maaseide 21-14, 21-14 under
the lights at the Olympic Beach Volleyball Centre.
Instead of staying up late to participate in the three-hour
festivities Friday night, McPeak and Youngs turned in early after
watching their opponents on TV marching in the parade of nations.
"I was like, 'All right, they're going to have tired legs
tomorrow,"' said McPeak, the sport's all-time winningest female
player. "It was nice to get a good night's sleep while everybody
else was out until 3 a.m."
Glesnes and Maaseide won the first two points, then lost the
next five and never led again.
"Everything we tried to do, they had an answer," Glesnes said.
The Americans kept the Norwegians off-balance by attacking early
in possessions -- going for points on their second shots rather than
using the normal bump, set and spike method.
"It's not easy to defend. A lot of teams don't practice it,"
Youngs said. "It's hard to practice if you don't even do it
Youngs finished the first set by tapping a shot over Maaseide at
the net. The Norwegians trailed 5-4 in the second set when Youngs
and McPeak had consecutive kills to start a decisive 11-5 run.
"We're a confident team, which means we're a scary team,"
Youngs said. "We're clicking on all cylinders."
Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard, the top American men's team, were
not nearly as sharp in a 21-16, 21-14 loss to 17th-seeded
Australians Julien Prosser and Mark Williams in the last match of
The Americans fell behind 6-2 and never led. Blanton faulted on
six serves, while the 6-foot-8 Nygaard was out of position on
numerous block attempts.
"We didn't play well enough to win and they did," Nygaard
said. "We put no pressure on them and they did whatever they
The duo still had a chance to force a third set, trailing only
15-14 in the second. But Blanton sent a jump serve long, Nygaard
smacked two spikes into the net and the 17th-seeded Australians
closed out the match.
"I didn't really expect to win that easily, to be honest,"
said Prosser, playing in his third Olympics.
Earlier in the day, 2000 gold medalists Natalie Cook and
Kerri-Ann Pottharst got off to a good start with their new
Pottharst and Summer Lochowicz, the No. 18 seeds, upset
seventh-seeded Chinese duo Jia Tian and Wang Fei 21-18, 21-18. Cook
and Nicole Sanderson, the No. 5 seeds, beat 20th-seeded Bulgarian
sisters Lina and Petia Yanchulova 21-16, 21-12.
The 39-year-old Pottharst retired in 2003, ending her eight-year
partnership with Cook, who's now 29. Pottharst changed her mind a
few months later, but Cook had teamed up with Sanderson. Pottharst
paired up with Lochowicz late last year and they qualified for
Athens last month.
Their Olympics had an auspicious beginning. Lochowicz, making
her Olympic debut, slipped in the bathroom and skinned her knee
moments before she and Pottharst took the court. Once the match
started, Tian and Wang were the ones who stumbled, faulting on 14
serves and losing 27 of 46 points decided at the net.
"The first match can be nerve-racking. It's good to get that
one out of the way," Pottharst said.
Cook and Sanderson, also an Olympic rookie, had no trouble
beating the Bulgarians. Cook, wearing a bandage to protect a torn
rotator cuff in her right shoulder, converted 17 of 20 attack tries
and Sanderson finished the match with a hard spike.
In other preliminary matches Saturday, Canadians Guylaine Dumont
and Ann Martin upset the ninth-seeded Swiss pair Simone Kuhn and
Nicole Schnyder-Benoit 21-16, 21-13.
Late in the afternoon, seventh-seeded Argentineans Mariano
Baracetti and Martin Conde beat three-time Olympians Luia Maia and
Joao Brenha 13-21, 21-16, 15-5 in the first three-set match of the