If Michael Phelps had to swim five races against top competition every weekend for five straight weeks after the Olympics-while continuing to make numerous public appearances and signing hundreds of autographs-would he win them all?
The answer to that rhetorical question was loud and clear at Santa Barbara’s West Beach last Sunday when Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the almost peerless queens of beach volleyball, lost in the semifinals of the AVP Crocs Cup Shootout. It was only the third time in five years that they failed to advance to a championship match on the professional tour. Their triumph at the Beijing Olympics was their 19th consecutive title going back to August 2007.
But unlike the majority of Olympic athletes who could take a post-Games break, the beach volleyball gold medalists still had a good chunk of the AVP’s summer schedule ahead of them. It’s vitally important to their sport that they show up, play, and meet the fans.
“People are relentless right now,” Walsh said last weekend. She looked weary during the loss to Jennifer Boss/April Ross, uncharacteristically sending a couple balls into the net during crunch time. “I think just emotionally we’re drained,” said May-Treanor. Yet she and Walsh stuck around to sign balls, caps, and shirts and pose for pictures after their disappointing defeat.
Todd Rogers, winner of the Beijing men’s volleyball gold medal with Phil Dalhausser, also showed the effects of a long week: Wednesday, the taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago with a host of Olympic athletes; Thursday, a celebration in Solvang, his place of residence; Friday, an assembly at his alma mater, San Marcos High, and a Rotary Club fte; and Saturday and Sunday, five matches on hard, dusty sand under a hot sun.
According to freelance journalist Tom Burke, there are serious concerns about the future of the AVP. His new book, Order on the Court, chronicles the financial and organizational ups and downs of professional beach volleyball throughout the years (Chapter Four: “From 100K Payouts to IOUs”), and he suggests it may be on the brink of a downturn because of internal management problems.
Leonard Armato, the CEO of the AVP since 2001, remains optimistic. “We got great exposure at the Olympics,” Armato said Sunday. “Our presence on TV is greater than ever. Our goal is to work our way into the mainstream, and from there figure out a profitable model for investment.”
The Santa Barbara tournament showed off beach volleyball at its best, where the lasting impression (“what fantastic athletes”) prevails over the first impression (“bikinis!”). Dalhausser’s heroics led himself and Rogers to an improbable victory over John Hyden and Brad Keenan for the men’s championship. “An impossible comeback-I’ve never seen anything like it,” Armato enthused. The sprightly team of Jenny Johnson Jordan and Annett Davis won the women’s title, showing that the level of play will remain high if May-Treanor and Walsh take off next year to have babies.
A replay of the finals will be televised this weekend on Fox Sports Net West (Sat., 5pm) and Fox Sports Prime Ticket (Sun., 7pm).
MAKING OF A PROF: Rogers, known as “The Professor” on the beach tour, majored in religious studies at UCSB. He can thank his parents, Dave and Heidi, for his studious habits. When he played at BYU with the Gauchos, the fans heckled him by saying, “How’s your neighborhood?” Santa Barbara’s Mr. Rogers had no idea what they were talking about. “Our boys didn’t watch television,” Heidi said. “They’ve always been good readers.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: Dalhausser, known for his blocking, also has great prowess as a hitter. In the championship match of the Cincinnati tournament two weeks ago, he took 13 swings and put every one down for a point. That’s like a batter going 13-13 in a baseball series.
MICHAEL PHELPS IS COMING: He’ll be at Santa Barbara High’s Peabody Stadium on Friday night. This Michael Phelps is a 6‘3”, 270-pound offensive lineman for the Oxnard Yellowjackets. He’s heard enough swimming jokes to last a lifetime. It will be all about football when Oxnard squares off against the Santa Barbara Dons in their season opener, one of four prep games in town Friday night. “Football is the greatest sport on earth,” San Marcos coach Dare Holdren said at the Athletic Round Table luncheon this week. “No offense to you people who coach other sports I know nothing about.”
THE OTHER FOOTBALL: There were three college soccer coaches at the luncheon: Tim Vom Steeg (UCSB men), Paul Stumpf (UCSB women), and Dave Wolf (Westmont men and women). They are all excited about the way the season is shaping up. Stumpf’s Gaucho women are nationally ranked for the first time and will be playing two big games this weekend: Friday night against Washington State and at 4 p.m. on Sunday against Tennessee. The Don’t-Miss-It Game of the Year will be Sunday, September 21, at Harder Stadium: Vom Steeg’s Gauchos against Wake Forest, a meeting of the last two NCAA champions. Head out there early to catch the 6 p.m. start.
WE’RE NO. 1: The PG (Perfect Game) Crosschecker, a Web site devoted to amateur baseball, put a cherry on top of the Santa Barbara Foresters‘ season by naming them the No. 1 summer league team in the nation. They received the nod over the Harwich (Massachusetts) Mariners, champions of the prestigious Cape Cod League, and the Maryland Orioles, who captured the All-American Amateur Baseball Association title. Crosschecker decided that the Foresters faced the strongest competition in winning the 42-team NBC World Series at Wichita, Kansas. They went 32-4 in July and August after a 12-12 start that included three losses to Cuba’s national team in Havana.
Top Sporting Events: September 11-20
Thursday, September 11
High school girls tennis University at Santa Barbara, 3 p.m.
High school boys water polo St. Joseph’s at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.; Righetti at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.
High school girls volleyball Westlake at San Marcos, 4 p.m.; Villanova Prep at Bishop Diego, 6 p.m.
Friday, September 12
High school football Oxnard at Santa Barbara, 7 p.m.; Rio Mesa at San Marcos, 7 p.m.; Dos Pueblos at San Luis Obispo, 7 p.m.; St. Joseph at Bishop Diego, La Playa Stadium, 7:30 p.m.; Morro Bay at Carpinteria, 7:30 p.m.
College men’s water polo UC Davis at UCSB, 3 p.m.
College women’s soccer Cypress at SBCC, La Playa Stadium, 2 p.m.; Washington State at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 7 p.m.
College women’s volleyball Santa Rosa at SBCC, 6 p.m.
High school girls tennis Dana Hills at Santa Barbara, 3 p.m.
High school girls volleyball Santa Margarita at Santa Barbara, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 13
College football SBCC at Canyons, Santa Clarita, 7 p.m.
High school football (eight man) Windward at Laguna Blanca, 1 p.m.
Golf Santa Barbara Golf Club 50th Anniversary Foursomes Tournament, double shotgun start, 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Sunday, September 14
College women’s soccer Tennessee at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 4 p.m.
Monday, September 15
Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Harry’s Plaza Cafe, 12 p.m.
Tuesday, September 16
College women’s volleyball The Master’s at Westmont, 7 p.m.
High school girls volleyball Newbury Park at San Marcos, 4 p.m.; Thousand Oaks at Dos Pueblos, 6 p.m.; Laguna Blanca at Bishop Diego, 6 p.m.; Nordhoff at Carpinteria, 6 p.m.
High school boys water polo Mater Dei at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.; Oxnard at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.; Carpinteria at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.
Wednesday, September 17
High school girls volleyball Santa Ynez at Bishop Diego, 6 p.m.
Thursday, September 18
College men’s soccer Evansville at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 7 p.m.
High school girls volleyball Oxnard at Santa Barbara, 6:30 p.m.; Laguna Blanca at Carpinteria, 5 p.m.
High school girls tennis Mira Costa at Santa Barbara, 3 p.m.
Friday, September 19
High school football Lompoc at San Marcos, 7 p.m.; Santa Barbara at Beverly Hills, 7 p.m.; Dos Pueblos at Cabrillo, Lompoc, 7:30 p.m.; Bishop Diego at Fillmore, 7:30 p.m.; Carpinteria at Nipomo, 7:30 p.m.
College women’s soccer Mt. SAC at SBCC, La Playa Stadium, 2 p.m.
College men’s soccer Rio Hondo at SBCC, La Playa Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
College and open cross country Westmont Invitational, 9:30 a.m.
Saturday, September 20
College football SBCC at Ventura, 7 p.m.
College women’s soccer UC Santa Cruz at Westmont, 4 p.m.
College women’s volleyball Fresno Pacific at Westmont, 3 p.m.; SBCC Quad Tournament, 12 p.m.
High school football (eight man) Valley Christian-Santa Maria at Laguna Blanca, 1 p.m.; Cate at Avalon, 1 p.m.
Sunday, September 21
College men’s soccer Wake Forest at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 6 p.m.
Running Goleta Education Foundation Four-Miler, 401 N. Fairview Ave., 8:30 a.m.