For three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, returning to the AVP tour has been more of a reunion than a comeback.
Playing on the domestic beach volleyball tour she once dominated, May-Treanor was surprised by all the changes she found since she last competed there in 2010. Among the biggest: Many of the athletes she once played against are now mothers, like May-Treanor herself.
''It was kind of a rarity back in the day,'' said May-Treanor, who has a 14-month-old daughter, Malia, with her husband, former major league catcher Matt Treanor. ''It's nice to see that moms can get out here and compete.''
May-Treanor is one of the most successful players in beach volleyball history, winning three Olympic titles with Kerri Walsh Jennings and 112 consecutive matches leading to the Beijing Games - breaking their record of 89 in a row in the run-up to Athens. The AVP ran out of money in 2010 and shut down; it was eventually bought by Southern California businessman Donald Sun.
May-Treanor was focused then on the international tour, where players earn points to qualify for the Olympics.
''Donald is doing a great job,'' she said. ''This is the first one I'm at. He's player-friendly.''
May-Treanor retired after the London Games and competed on ''Dancing with the Stars,'' but had to withdraw when she tore her Achilles tendon. Walsh Jennings, recovering from a shoulder injury, is trying to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Games with London silver medalist April Ross.
May-Treanor's life is now ''mom first,'' raising her daughter and also running coaching clinics.
That changed when Brittany Hochevar, a fellow Long Beach State alum, asked her to play at the AVP event in New York in July. May-Treanor had a clinic that she couldn't skip, but she said she would play if Hochevar still needed a partner for Seattle.
But it's a favor, not a comeback.
''She's been kind of left out of the mix. It stinks when you're kind of in that spot,'' May-Treanor said of the partner shuffling that takes place because of injuries or teams trying to find the right chemistry. ''It's tough being that player that's out. She's so pumped for this sport.''
Seattle also was attractive for May-Treanor because she has relatives in the area who haven't met her daughter. So she brought the baby along; her husband had to stay behind for jury duty.
The new team, seeded 11th, advanced to the semifinals with a 21-17, 21-17 victory Saturday over second-seeded Emily Day and Olympic silver medalist Jen Kessy. They will play Sunday on the shores of Lake Sammamish outside Seattle.
May-Treanor rejected the suggestion that she's treated like royalty by the current players, who grew up watching her. But there is a difference this time.
''A lot of the older faces are gone. There's very few familiar faces I know,'' she said. ''The players are like, `Hey it's nice to see you,' and that makes you feel good. Whether I was playing or just out to watch, it's fun to see people.''