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Kiraly, new partner in semis


Call them the odd couple of two-man beach volleyball.

Karch Kiraly is a family man. He is the all-time leading money-winner on the Miller Lite/Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour, he has two children and his attitude is businesslike both on and off the court.

Scott Ayakatubby is a throwback to the early days of the tour. Some might call him a beach bum. He's a mellow, care-free guy who rolls out of bed, grabs a surfboard and heads for the ocean.

But when Kiraly and Ayakatubby get together on the sand, their skills and personalities mesh perfectly. And they win.

They are joined by Mike Dodd/Mike Whitmarsh, Bill Boullianne/Brian Lewis and Eric Fonoimoana/Ricci Luyties in the winner's bracket semifinals at the $100,000 Nestea Open. Play continues today at 500 Harborview Drive.

Kiraly and Ayakatubby paired up in early April, when Kent Steffes, Kiraly's partner of three years, went down with a shoulder injury.

"When I found out Kent was hurt I talked to a few different players," Kiraly said. "Scott was the only guy who said 'let's just play and see how it goes.' He wasn't my first choice when I made the decision, but now he's playing better than the other two guys I talked to."

In his 11 years on the tour before playing with Kiraly, Ayakatubby had four victories. He has won that many tournaments in six weeks with Kiraly.

With Steffes ready to return by mid-July, Kiraly said he has a difficult decision to make. He could ride the wave of success with Ayakatubby or return to the partnership that has grossed nearly $4 million.

"Ak and I have had more success than I expected; we have the ability to win every tournament we enter," Kiraly said. "It's going to be a tough decision. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

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