MASON, Ohio – April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings won their third gold medal on the FIVB World Tour when they claimed the top prize on Saturday afternoon in the Cincinnati Open, presented by AVP.
Ross and Walsh Jennings swept the bracket in their 12th tournament of the Olympic qualifying season, for their seventh medal in that same time frame. Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena brought home bronze in their ninth medal in 11 events.
The event is one of the final three left before the next chance countries have to qualify Olympic berths, on June 13. It also marked the final World Tour event in the United States ahead of the Olympic Games.
The all-American bronze medal matchup between Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena against John Mayer and Ryan Doherty will air, tape delayed, on Sunday, May 22 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
“It was an exciting week being able to come to Cincinnati, to be in the U.S. on the FIVB World Tour,” said April Ross. “To qualify for the Olympics and to cap it off with a gold medal makes it even sweeter.”
Walsh and Ross satisfied their requirement to qualify the U.S. for an Olympic berth via the provisional Olympic rankings. They currently rank sixth, and needed to be in the Top 15, have played in the minimum 12 tournaments and are one of the top two American teams under those same terms.
The event tied the number of American women’s teams to reach the main draw, at last year’s Long Beach Grand Slam, with seven. The USA was also represented by seven men’s team in the main draw.
With only three events remaining before provisional Olympic rankings closes on June 13, it was a high stakes tournament for the USA teams who are trying to improve their points or edge into the top two for the U.S. Ross and Walsh Jennings swept their pool, 3-0 and were joined in the elimination rounds by the second-ranked women’s team Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat (2-1) and third ranked Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day (1-2).
In round one, Kessy and Day were eliminated by fellow Americans Lane Carico and Summer Ross, 22-20, 22-20. They finished 17th and were unable to improve their ranking points. Also ending their road in the first round were Kimberly DiCello/Kendra Vanzwieten and Irene Pollock/Caitlin Ledoux.
Fendrick and Sweat took down Germany’s Kim Behrens/Anni Schumacher cleanly, 24-22 21-13. Following that, the pair topped Vanuatu 21-14, 17-21, 15-7 to earn their spot in the quarterfinals where they were eliminated by eventual bronze medalists Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo of Spain, 21-12, 21-17.
“It was fun playing the States and in front of these fans,” Sweat said. “We came here needing a fifth to gain some points. I’m happy we did that, but disappointed we couldn’t clean it up a little bit in the last match to reach [Saturday’s] semifinals.”
In the second round A. Ross and Walsh Jennings eliminated Carico and S. Ross, 21-13, 19-21, 15-7. On playing a fellow U.S. team, Walsh Jennings said, “the butterflies are different. They are a little more chaotic for me. We respect them just as much as everyone else, but the intensity is a little bit different, a little bit more.”
In the quarterfinals, the No. 1 seeded Ross and Walsh Jennings continued the momentum to top Germany’s Teresa Mersmann/Isabel Schneider, 21-15, 21-13 in their third match on Friday. To begin Saturday, they moved past Spain’s Liliana/Elsa 21-14, 21-16 and took home their third gold by beating Xue/Xia 20-22, 21-14, 18-16.
Looking ahead, Ross said they “are taking the last two tournaments in qualification seriously. Those tournaments will be high level because they’re Grand Slam. Our coach Marcio Sicoli will meet us in Moscow and it will be great to have him to initiate phase three in our journey to Rio.”
USA MEN EARN BRONZE
In men’s play, six of the seven teams in the main draw advanced to the elimination rounds. Mayer and Doherty topped Chile and John Hyden/Tri Bourne beat Canada. Derek Olson/Jeremy Casebeer tied for 17th after being eliminated by Germany in three frames.
Once in the second round, the USA had three teams with automatic byes. Dalhausser and Lucena handled Germany in three to go to the quarterfinals, while the Trevor and Taylor Crabb saw their 5-0 streak come to an end after falling to Canada in three.
The third unbeaten team, Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, took down another Canada team to advance. The two final teams to post victories were Hyden/Bourne and Doherty/Mayer. In the quarterfinals, Hyden and Bourne suffered a 21-19, 22-20 loss to Brazil’s young Guto Carvalhaes/Saymon Santos and Gibb/Patterson were bounced by Doherty/Mayer, 21-19, 17-21, 15-13.
Dalhausser and Lucena locked up their bid to the semifinal with a 21-13, 21-15 win against Australia. Saturday’s semifinal match-ups saw USA on opposite sides of the brackets but both fall to their opponents. Dalhausser/Lucena lost to Canada’s Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter and Doherty/Mayer to the thriving Guto/Saymon, 21-19, 21-16.
In the unfortunate showdown for bronze following a pair of semifinal loses, Dalhausser/Lucena edged Doherty/Mayer for the medal, 21-15, 21-16.
“This was one of our best tournaments,” Mayer said after the match. “I think the last four matches before today were all three-setters. All deuce games where it’s back and forth. I think we were mentally tough, even when we didn’t feel as good as we wanted to, we battled and came out with wins. It was a big step for our team.”
The bronze match marked the ninth medal for Dalhausser/Lucena as a team and fourth is the best finish for Doherty/Mayer as a team.
“We’ll use this momentum going into the next two Grand Slam,” said Lucena. “We still have two more Grand Slams and any U.S. team could win them. We’re still not a lock yet [for the Olympics], when we qualify then we will gear up to prepare for the Olympics and try to make a run there.”
WEEK IN REVIEW
FIVB Antalya Open
– Kerri Walsh Jennings/April Ross won their third gold of Olympic qualification in their 12th tournament
– Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena won bronze for their ninth medal of Olympic qualification in 11 tournaments
– Ryan Doherty/John Mayer finished fourth, their best FIVB finish as a team
– Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat tied for fifth, improving their provisional Olympic rankings
– Tri Bourne/John Hyden tied for fifth, improving in provisional Olympic points dropping one of their 9th-place finishes from their top 12
– Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson tied for fifth, improving in provisional Olympic points dropping one of their 9th-place finishes from their top 12
– Trevor/Taylor Crabb tied for ninth, tying their career best set in 2015 in Xiamen
– Lane Carico and Summer Ross tied for ninth for the second consecutive time
– Tied for 17th: Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day tied for 17th, not improving on the Olympic points; Kimberly DiCello/Kendra Vanzwieten; Irene Pollock/Caitlin Ledoux; Jeremy Casebeer/Derek Olson
– Tied for 25th: Todd Rogers/Robbie Page; Jennifer Fopma/Brittany Hochevar
– Eliminated in qualification: Kelly Reeves/Ali McColloch; Ian Satterfield/Raffe Paulis
May 24-29 Moscow Grand Slam
June 2-5 AVP Seattle
June 7-12 Hamburg Grand Slam
June 14-19 Olsztyn Grand Slam
June 16-19 AVP New York City
June 23-25 NVL San Antonio
June 28-July 3 Porec Major
July 1-3 NORCECA North Bay