RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – USA Volleyball began its run at the 2016 Olympic Games with its first victory, on the beach with Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson. April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings followed with a win of their own in the first midnight match of the tournament.
Gibb and Patterson were the first American beach volleyball athletes to play on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro and they notched the first victory of the Olympics for all three USA Volleyball teams in attendance, indoor men’s and women’s included. Gibb and Patterson beat Qatar 21-16, 21-16.
Ross and Walsh Jennings followed hours later, starting at 12:34 a.m. on the wee hours of Aug. 7, wrapping at 1:10 a.m. A 21-14, 21-13 win against Australia’s Mariafe Artacho and Nicole Laird set a dominating tone leading into their second match, against China’s Fan Wang/Yuan Yue on Monday – also at midnight.
GIBB/PATTERSON DEF QATAR | 21-16, 21-16
“It’s a long tournament, that’s what I keep telling myself,” Gibb said. “I don’t want to get too excited and too emotional. It is really cool though. USA Volleyball, I hope it has a really long tournament. I love all those guys on the indoor team and the women, the other men’s [beach] team and the women’s beach teams. Let’s go Team USA!”
Gibb, a three-time Olympian, and Patterson opened play with their first career match-up against Qatar’s Jefferson Pereira and Cherif Younousse. Gibb and Patterson handled it well to walk away with the first victory of Pool F.
“It feels good,” said Gibb. “It feels like a step. I don’t want to oversell it. I had nervous energy going in and it was fun. It’s my third Olympics and still outside I’m like ‘Let’s get going!’ It’s good to get it under our belt but really what it is is just a first step in a long process in a long tournament.”
The arena on Copacabana Beach seats 12,000 and with multiple sessions throughout the day and 22 countries playing, the crowd is a mixture of nationalities. The biggest commonality is their love for the sport.
“I want them to enjoy themselves,” Patterson, a first time Olympian, said of the crowd. “We’re playing a sport for medals out here and for pride for our country, but at the same time, there’s a reason why beach volleyball is so popular here because they love it. And if you show how much you love it, then it’s just a great relationship.”
ROSS/WALSH JENNINGS DEF AUSTRALIA | 21-14, 21-13
Ross and Walsh Jennings are the United States’ lone pair with Olympic backgrounds, Ross a 2012 silver medalist and Walsh Jennings a three-time gold medalist. Using their experience to their advantage, the duo quickly jumped into their Olympic opener with focus.
“It was what we hoped for,” Ross said afterward. “We wanted to come out and focus on our side of the net, take care of the ball, establish a good feeling, a good connection, a good rhythm and I think that’s what we did.”
Despite the match starting behind schedule, at 12:34 a.m. local time, due to a three-setter between China’s Wang/Yue and Switzerland, the pair were energized still afterward.
“It’s fun,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s a party out there. It’s a party atmosphere especially under the lights at night. The Brazilians get louder at night and our fans were amazing tonight.”
On Aug. 7, the second set of American pairs (Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena; Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat) will play their first matches.
After pool play, the top two teams in the pool will advance to the Round of 16. Of the third-place finishers in each pool, the top two of those six will advance, based on match points, then by set ratio. The four remaining third-ranked teams in each pool will play a two-match lucky loser round (3rd ranked vs 6th ranked; 4th vs 5th), with the winners advancing to the round of 16. The fourth ranked team in each pool will be eliminated.
DAY IN REVIEW
2016 Olympic Games | Aug.
– Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson won their first Olympic match together in Patterson’s first career match in the Olympics and Gibb’s 11th; 21-16, 21-16 vs Qatar
– April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings beat Australia 21-14, 21-13 in the first midnight match (local) for beach volleyball at the 2016 Olympics
Aug. 7, 10 a.m. ET Fendrick/Sweat vs Poland
Aug. 7, 3:30 p.m. ET Dalhausser/Lucena vs Tunisia
Aug. 8, 3:30 p.m. ET Gibb/Patterson vs Austria
Aug. 8, 11 p.m. ET Ross/Walsh Jennings vs China
Aug. 9, 10 a.m. ET Dalhausser/Lucena vs Mexico
Aug. 9, 3:30 p.m. ET Fendrick/Sweat vs Brazil
Aug. 10, 10 a.m. ET Gibb/Patterson vs Spain
Aug. 10, 8 p.m. ET Ross/Walsh Jennings vs Switzerland
Aug. 11, 2:30 p.m. ET Fendrick/Sweat vs Russia
Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m. ET Dalhausser/Lucena vs Italy