WHEN THE sports-and-entertainment agent Leonard Armato bought and consolidated the men's and women's pro beach volleyball tours in 2001, he thought he was just making a sound business decision. And maybe he was, but he was also inadvertently becoming a matchmaker. The blending of the divisions inevitably led to fraternization, and there are now 10 couples on the AVP tour. "I liken it to movie stars who spend a lot of time working together," says Armato. "Like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie after doing Mr. & Mrs. Smith." He ought to know: Six years ago Armato married Holly McPeak, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist who is now a member of the tour's 12th ranked team. As the AVP heads into the Brooklyn Open at Coney Island this weekend, here's a look at how love is shaping the world of beach volleyball.
Ranking: 12. 2003's top defensive player
Ranking: 1. Two-time AVP MVP
WHEN THEY first met at a training session, recalls Walsh, "he tried to slam a ball in my face." Now, they've become homebodies, even when they're on the road. Says Walsh, "We are big fans of room service."
MARRIED TWO YEARS
Ranking: 11. 2006 Rookie of the Year
Ranking: 8. 2006 Rookie of the Year
"SHE HAS the lead in mini golf; I have the lead in chess and H-O-R-S-E," says Keenan. Competitive? Their favorite stop while touring was Savannah, where they wound up at a dive bar playing darts against locals. Alas, Ross laments, "they won."
DATING FIVE MONTHS
Ranking: 13. Five-time event champ
Ranked No. 5, second straight year
BOTH WERE coming off relationships when they met at a players' party in Montreal. "Everyone was dancing, drinking," says Wacholder. "We were shy, but as we were leaving, a friend got us to exchange e-mail addresses." A month later they went out.
DATING SINCE 2002