Holdren, Metzger upset Germans

ATHENS, Greece -- Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger dodged "The
Recking Ball" and advanced to the Olympic beach volleyball

Delivering their best performance of the tournament, the
12th-seeded U.S. duo upset fourth-seeded Germans Jonas Reckermann
and Markus Dieckmann 21-16, 19-21, 15-13 Friday in their first
match of the medal round.

The 6-foot-6 Reckermann, a spiking specialist colorfully
nicknamed by Holdren, was reduced to a harmless setter most of the
match as the Americans focused on serving to the 6-2 Dieckmann.

"The only way to beat that team is to keep Reckermann out of
the play," Metzger said. "Our strategy was, 'Give it to the
little guy."'

The Americans next face the Swiss pair Stefan Kobel and Patrick
Heuscher, who ousted Joao Brehna and Luis Maia of Portugal 21-18,

"We need to keep getting better and better if we want to win
this," Metzger said.

If they do, they would become the third straight set of
Americans to win gold at the beach. Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes
won the first in 1996, when the sport made its Olympic debut. Dain
Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana made a surprising run to the gold in

Holdren carried the Americans in the first set Friday, with five
kills and a block. During one rally, Holdren jabbed his left hand
at a spike from Dieckmann and the return barely cleared the net
before bouncing off the line.

"Any lucky play you get, it's huge," he said. "Maybe it was
just our day."

Metzger finished the opening set by spiking so hard that his
baseball cap fell off.

Neither team led by more than two points in the tight second
set, then the Germans went up 8-5 in the third. But Metzger tapped
a shot over Reckermann to start a 6-1 run.

"Dax was playing so well, he gave me a little breathing room,"
Metzger said. "I told Dax, 'Just keep carrying me. I'm going to
come up with a couple of plays.' It took a while."

The Germans fought to a 13-13 tie before Metzger punched a kill
off Reckermann then hammered a spike off Dieckmann's hand on match
point. The Americans embraced afterward, falling backward into the

"We didn't play our best," Reckermann said. "And even 80 or
90 percent is not good enough against a team as good as that."

Earlier, Australians Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst, who won
the gold medal in 2000 and the bronze in 1996, faced off with
different partners -- Cook with Nicole Sanderson and Pottharst with
Summer Lochowicz.

Cook and Sanderson won 21-15, 21-16.

"We knew this would happen at some stage," Cook said. "It was
disappointing in the fact that we had to knock each other out so
early in the tournament."

The 39-year-old Pottharst retired last year. She reconsidered
later, but Cook had already paired with Sanderson. Pottharst then
teamed with Lochowicz and the pair made a late run to Athens, only
qualifying last month. They're even sharing an apartment at the
Olympic Village.

The American women begin medal round play Saturday. Top-ranked
Misty May and Kerri Walsh, who haven't lost a set, face China's
Tian Jia and Wang Fei. Fourth-ranked Holly McPeak and Elaine
Youngs, also 3-0 in the preliminary round, open against Czechs Eva
Celbova and Sona Novakova.

In other medal round action Friday:

  • Brazilians Ana Paula Connelly and Sandra Pires overcame a thunderous pro-Greek crowd to beat Vassilliki Karadassiou and Efi Sfyri 21-16, 21-19.

  • Top-ranked Brazilian men Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos
    knocked out Norwegians Vegardo Hoidalen and Jorre Kjemperud 21-15, 19-21, 15-6.

  • Italy's Daniela Gattelli and Lucilla Perrotta defeated Germany's Susanne Lahme and Danja Musch 16-21, 21-17, 21-19 in a 75-minute thriller.

  • Spain's Pablo Herrera and two-time Olympian Javier Bosma ousted Sweden's Bjorn Berg and Simon Dahl 21-16, 21-17.

  • Canadians Guylaine Dumont and Annie Martin advanced with a 21-18, 21-19 win over Cubans Larrea Pereza and Fernandez Grasset.