By BJ Evans
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 27, 2014) – The U.S. beach volleyball team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross picked up where it left off in 2013 by winning the gold medal at the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball Fuzhou Open in China on Sunday.
In the gold medal match, Walsh Jennings (Saratoga, Calif.) and Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.), seeded No. 4, needed just 33 minutes to defeat Brazil’s Juliana Felisberta Silva and Maria Antonelli, 21-11, 21-18.
“It’s all we wanted. We’re always excited to be on the top of the podium,” said Ross in an FIVB release.
“All the best teams in the world came to this Open, because this is the first tournament of the season. It was a very, very tough tournament, a good indicator of how tough this season going to be.”
Walsh Jennings, the three-time Olympic gold medalist with Misty May-Treanor, and Ross began their full-time partnership at the end of 2013 after Ross split with former partner Jennifer Kessy, with whom she won the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Walsh Jennings and Ross won the final two FIVB Grand Slams of the season in Sao Paolo, Brazil and Xiamen, China together. The two veteran U.S. players are working hard amid high expectations.
“We’re still growing as a team. I think we’ve made strides at this tournament. We just hope to get better and better,” Ross said.
“April and I are a new team,” Walsh Jennings said. “We have to improve a lot. We are excited to improve. This Tour is going to make us so strong because everyone is great. We’re looking forward to the challenge and we want to win gold in Rio.”
Earlier in the day, Walsh Jennings and Ross came back from losing their first set of the tournament to beat China’s No. 1 seeded Xue Chen and Xia Xinyi, 14-21, 21-15, 15-11 in 47 minutes in the semifinals. Juliana and Antonelli downed countrywomen Maria Clara Salgado Rufino and Carolina Solberg Salgado (15-21, 21-13, 10-15) for their spot in the final.
Fuzhou native Xue and Xia overcame the disappointment of missing out a place in the final by edging Maria Clara and Carolina 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) in the bronze medal match.
The win in Fuzhou has confirmed Walsh Jennings as the most successful women’s athlete in World Tour history. The win was her 47th World Tour gold medal, one more than Brazil’s Larissa França with Juliana on 45. Overall, Walsh has won 69 FIVB international medals – 47 gold, 15 silver and seven bronze – from 90 events, equal with her former partner Misty May Treanor, but behind Juliana and Larissa (both 83 medals) and Brazilian legends Adriana Behar (86) and Shelda Bede (91).
Walsh Jennings is the third most successful athlete when also considering the men with Emanuel Rego (76 gold) and Ricardo Santos (55) one and two in the men’s World Tour records ahead of another Brazilian Ze Marco de Melo (26).
Walsh Jennings and Ross gave Juliana and Antonelli a hard time in the first set, displaying solid defense in the back row and at the net and pulling away in the middle of the set.
The Brazilians started well in the second set, jumping 4-1 ahead, before the U.S. pair used an 8-2 run to take the lead. Brazil called timeout and returned to win three unanswered points to level at 9-9. The lead changed hands several times after that until 17-17 before Brazil saved a match point and then Walsh Jennings secured the set and the title with a brilliant block on Juliana.
(From USA Volleyball Press Release)