The 2009 Beach Tennis USA national tour continues to heat up, setting the stage for a sizzling
2009 national championship showdown in New York on Labor Day weekend.
The stakes are hiked up a few notches.
Extra juice and intriguing subplots underscore Beach Tennis USA's pantheon.
The championship squad of this weekend's San Diego Smash has called for the title of reigning national champions Matteo Marighella and Alex Mingozzi.
Marty "Kodiak" Salokas and Donnie "The Golden Bullet" Young, stapled Joe "The Bronze Bomber" Testa and Billy Lambo with an 8-4 triumph before a strongly bi-partisan crowd.
In the culmination of a long day under the sultry sun, we were headed for a marquee matchup between the Hermosa Beach, Ca. natives.
It was the second consecutive all-California championship at the Smash.
Salokas and Young continued to stake their claim as one of the elite teams on American soil.
The teammates weren't shy about their aspirations to knock off the Tarzan tandem in Marighella and Mingozzi.
The Italians, who've vaulted into beach tennis' stratosphere, are swinging from the trees in Italy, with no indication of a barometer match until Labor Day weekend.
It's an uphill battle, with the high-octane, savvy-smothered Marighella-Mingozzi show eyeing a threepeat.
The two titans are comfortable and composed sitting atop the mountain, while a slew of American teams are still torn on which trail will lead them to the top.
A third straight ring, before a national audience in New York, would be sweet icing on the cake of beach tennis dominance.
With an unblemished record on U.S. soil, the deadly duet faced their most formidable foe in Chris Henderson and Phil Whitesell in last year's pulsating national championship.
A rotund railspitter and paper-slim slaughterer, respectively, the boys from South Carolina established a thin margin early.
But the italian combo came clawing back, erasing the deficit and hanging their second consecutive national championship banner...
Word around the campfire, Marighella and Mingozzi are still cruising to convincing victories back in the homeland.
The high-flying Matteo, who's rapidly evolved as the face of the burgeoning volleyball/tennis hybrid, is still jumping out of the beach.
Mingozzi, he of the cannon serve, is still planting opponents in the sand.
Will history repeat itself again?
Young and Salokis now have the momentum-pendulum swinging in their direction, having taken home two of the last three events on the national tour.
This latest is a benchmark win.
Salokis and Young are now the point series leaders in this year's tour. They've captured the championship at three of this year's events.
Salokis and Young won in the windy conditions at the tri-state open in Long Beach, N.Y. back on Labor Day weekend.
They handled and handcuffed veterans Whitney Craft and and Devon Wakefield.
Salokas and Young did not compete in the Virginia Beach Blast, where Henderson and Whitesell scraped the competition handily.
Henderson and Whitesell are heavily favored to march back into the title game for another shot at the defending champs.
Everyone wants a shot at the kings, yet this might be the midnight hour for Salokas-Young and Whitesell-Henderson.
Salokas gets a free pass, as he's still just a 26-year-old kid. He's got his best years ahead of him.
BTUSA president Jim Lorenzo and several others have quipped about Whitesell and Henderson--both of whom are nearing age 40--making a seamless transition from the beach tennis courts to the broadcast booths.
Young, who's in his third year on the tour but looks like he could be in his third year of college, has actually eclipsed 4o.
With an infusion of young talent taking over the beaches, this could be one of the last chances remaining for the "old" guys.
The national tour continues July 4th weekend, as "the movement" migrates to Long Beach, CA.