SPORTS

Misty-Eyed-- A Conversation with Volleyball Superstar Misty May-Treanor Part 1.

8/1/2006

Misty May-Treanor makes up half of the most dominant duo in professional sports history.



Misty May-Treanor makes up half of the most dominant duo in professional sports history. Why put May & Walsh ahead of Gretzky & Messier, Mantle & Maris, and Montana & Rice? These sun-kissed California Girls are so good they make it look like their opponents are sinking in quicksand while they bump and spike their way to victory again, and again, and again. The pair set an unprecedented 89-match win streak from 2003-2004 dwarfing record runs in other sports: 2003-2004 New England Patriots 21 gamer, 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers 33-gamer, and the 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins 17-gamer.

Then after sweeping their way to gold in Athens, May & Walsh kept it coming wracking up 50 consecutive W’s. The beach queens continue to sandblast the competition as they look ahead to Beijing in 2008--and pile up the prize money for their retirement savings.




A New York Times scribe once described the beach volleyball scene as a cross between Baywatch and Mortal Kombat. What do you think of that characterization?

Yeah, well the competitors get pretty feisty out there and you get people who are in suits everyday taking off their ties and breaking out the board shorts, and you have business women running around in bathing suits so it’s a pretty kicked back environment.


Not even Tiger Woods packs the intimidation punch you and Kerri Walsh smack your opposition’s stomachs with. Are there any teams that give you girls anxiety attacks before you face them?

Well we get anxious when we play overseas against the top Brazilian and Chinese teams because we’ve had some tight matches against those pairs. Down here Jennifer Boss and Nancy Mason gave us a run for our money the very first event of the year in Fort Lauderdale. We’ve also had real battles with Elaine Youngs and Rachel Wacholder, Annett Davis and Jenny Jordan, and Holly McPeak and her partner Nicole Branagh. There’s always new up and comers so we always have to be prepared because we’re playing for our meal money. You can’t look past anybody.

Do you feel intense pressure to live up to your hard earned reputation every time you step on the court and can you even remember the last time you lost?

No I honestly don’t. I feel I’ve accomplished everything after the Olympics that I set out to do so it’s almost like I’m playing for fun now and the pressure isn’t necessarily there as much. I think satisfied is the wrong word but if something were to happen and we’d lose a game or a match then as soon as I stepped on the court again it would like everything is ok. I wouldn’t let it bring me down.

What’s more rewarding for you, setting up Kerri for a killer spike or scoring the point yourself?

Scoring a point myself. If you’re put in a difficult position with their serve either you’re back or you’re short, you got to pass the ball and make sure it’s a good pass then you got to get back give yourself enough time to make the approach, listen to the call and make a good shot. Setting the ball is just putting up a nice hittable ball for your partner to swing at and then your job is done unless they get blocked and you have to cover.

How much of your game is on the fly improvisation and how much is pre-meditated set plays that you employ depending on the situation?

A lot of it is on the fly because the same play never happens the same way. We watch video of teams and we know how their defense sets up so we kind of know what’s open but it can depend on if it’s windy that day or if the sand is deep and other factors. Whereas in indoor volleyball you know that person X is going to get set most of the time, this is the play they run but this doesn’t happen in beach volleyball because it’s very unpredictable.

You and Kerri are always in synch in the heat of a game. How important is court communication in beach volleyball?

Communication is very, very important because things are constantly changing throughout the rallies and if you don’t communicate you’ll feel lost. If you talk out there it makes the game a lot easier.

Do you and Kerri have some code words or miscues that you use to confuse the other team?

No…but I wish sometimes we could speak a different language, a language that no one knew. Pretty much everybody is the same and even overseas in all the European and Asian countries English is the universal language so everybody knows what’s going on.

Kerri Walsh’s nickname is “six feet of sunshine.” That’s pretty easy to understand but how’d you end up with “Turtle”?

I don’t know Kerri’s husband gave me that name and then everybody started calling me that. So don’t ask me, I’m still trying to figure it out.

If you were born 5’2 instead of 5’10 how would you have channeled your competitive energy?

I think I’d still play volleyball. My dad’s coed partner is about that height and she still plays volleyball. Either that or it would be fun to be a jockey, racing horses and feeding the need for speed.

Why is it called a “six-pack” when you get zonked in the head in a game?

That’s been around even before I started playing volleyball. I don’t know if it’s because when people first got hit in the head they had to buy the beer or what but that’s what it’s always been called

Way more people know Misty and Kerri than the top men Todd and Phil. Why do you think the women’s game gets so much more attention than the men’s game?

When I was growing up watching the men’s game overpowered the women’s game. But the women’s athletic movement, I mean it started really with Billie Jean King, but now female sports from the pros through to the college level are becoming bigger. Girl Power!

This article first ran in the August issue of Belltv Magazine

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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