MOSCOW, Russia – April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings won their fourth gold this year on the FIVB World Tour and USA Volleyball punched the tickets for two men’s quota spots at the 2016 Rio Olympics all at the Moscow Grand Slam.
In the final Grand Slam of the Olympic qualifying season, April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings won their third-consecutive gold medal and extended their podium streak to six tournaments. Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson finished fourth and alongside Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, both teams satisfied their requirements to earn the USA quota spots to the Olympic Games.
The gold by Ross and Walsh Jennings came after the pair beat their third Brazilian team in two days, top ranked Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes, 22-20, 21-17.
“You know what makes me happy? This is done. Now we’ve done it, we’ve beaten them and put it to rest,” said Walsh Jennings. “We haven’t done that before. We were so confident that we could and would. Now that it’s done, it’s done and we go. It feels really good. It was a total team effort, 100-percent.”
Over the week the pair played four Brazilian teams, winning each of the matches. After going 3-0 in pool play and playing the young Elize Maia/Eduara Lisboa, winning 18-21, 21-17, 19-17, they faced them once again in the third round, that time winning 21-10, 21-15.
“This week is a step in the right direction,” Ross said. “We manage everything mentally pretty well, we don’t get ahead or behind ourselves. We go for it and trust our coach our training. We’re on the right path.”
In the semifinals, Ross and Walsh Jennings topped Juliana Da Silva/Taiana Lima of Brazil in two sets as well.
The road for the American men proved to be bumpier. Gibb and Patterson dropped a match to Poland’s Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel in pool play, 21-17, 21-14. In the first round they rebounded against a Polish team, knocking out Michal Kadziola/Jakub Szalankiewicz, 21-13, 21-18. In the second round they caught a break from Poland and faced Germany, winning in three before taking down Spain in the quarterfinals.
In the semis, Gibb and Patterson were unable to take down The Netherlands’ Reinder Nummerdor/Christiaan Varenhorst, falling 17-21, 21-16, 15-13. For bronze, the pair met their third Polish team of the week, Bartosz Losiak/Piotr Kantor. Despite opening with a 21-19 score, they dropped the final two frames 22-20, 15-12 to finish fourth. It marks their best finish since the Olsztyn Grand Slam on Aug. 30, 2015.
“It’s exciting, accruing points for the Olympics,” said Gibb after their quarterfinal win against Spain. Gibb and Patterson’s finish of higher than ninth place sealed the U.S. its second men’s quota spot for the Olympic Games. The first was tallied with Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena competing at the Moscow Grand Slam. In projected Olympic rankings, Dalhausser/Lucena are ranked fifth and Gibb/Patterson sixth.
Unfortunately for Dalhausser and Lucena, their time in Moscow was cut short at 17th-place when they were eliminated by Italy’s Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo, 22-20, 23-21 in the first round. It was the first time Dalhausser and Lucena had to play a first round match since doing so at the Rio Grand Slam on March 11.
Other Olympic hopefuls also saw a tough road in Moscow. John Hyden/Tri Bourne tied for ninth, which did improve their Olympic ranking points but has them sitting on the outside looking in for one of the top two U.S. men’s places. Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day tied for 17th, not enough to improve their ranking standings. Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat also fell short of improving their points, tying for 25th out at pool play.
The FIVB World Tour continues on to the Hamburg Grand Slam, June 7-12, and is the final event before the June 13 ranking deadline that gives countries their next chance to qualify two quota per gender for the Olympics. Once countries qualify spots, they can begin to name teams. Brazil named both of their qualified pair’s for men and womenearlier in the season.
WEEK IN REVIEW
FIVB Moscow Grand Slam
– Kerri Walsh Jennings/April Ross won their third consecutive gold, fourth in Olympic qualification
– Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson finished fourth, their best finish since the Olsztyn Grand Slam (Aug. 30); duo satisfied their requirements for Olympic qualification
– John Hyden/Tri Bourne tied for 9th, their sixth consecutive Top 10 finish
– Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena finished 17th; duo satisfied their requirements for Olympic qualification
– Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day tied for 17th for the third consecutive tournament
– Lane Carico/Summer Ross tied for 17th, their eighth Top 25 finish in 2016
– Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat’s 25th place finish does not improve their provisional Olympic ranking points
– Lost in qualification: Ryan Doherty/John Mayer; Kimberly DiCello/Kendra Vanzwieten
June 2-5 AVP Seattle
June 7-12 Hamburg Major
June 13 provisional Olympic rankings close, next chance for countries to earn quota spots
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
July 9 *Tentative* announcement of Olympic pool placements