COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The 13-0 win streak for Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross was snapped this week as the pair lost to Brazil in the gold medal match of the Vitoria Open.
Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross earned their fourth medal of the 2016 Olympic qualifying season, winning silver at the Vitoria Open after falling to Brazil’s number two team 22-20, 21-19. Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson finished ninth for the third consecutive time in the highest finish for a U.S. men’s team at the tournament.
In total, seven American teams finished in the Top 25 this week. Turning it around from a quick exit in Rio the week before, Jennifer Fopma and Brittany Hochevar placed ninth, alongside Jennifer Kessy and Emily Day. Tri Bourne played his second tournament with Mark Burik, who is filling in for the injured John Hyden. Bourne and Burik, as well as Sean Rosenthal and Theo Brunner finished 17th. Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat tied for 25th after being shut out in pool play.
All eyes were on Ross and Walsh Jennings as they stretched their season’s win streak of 13-0 into the finale. Entering the match the pair had a 108-19 record (85-percent win percentage) and were pitted against Larissa Maestrini/Talita Antunes of Brazil, the country’s second-ranked women’s team and also the No. 2 ranked team in provisional Olympic rankings.
Larissa and Talita own the series, now 2-0 after Sunday’s loss, but that doesn’t shut the door on Ross and Walsh Jennings who historically do well against Brazilian teams. They are 18-8 all-time against the Olympic host country, which many are predicting could be a medal matchup at the Games.
Ross and Walsh Jennings swept their pool and played against USA’s Hochevar and Fopma in the second round, winning that matchup 21-17, 21-14. In the round of eight, Ross and Walsh Jennings topped Brazil’s Maria Antonelli and Liliane Maestrini in three frames, 16-21, 21-18, 15-11. In the semifinals, they swept Germany’s Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler 21-19, 21-16 and looked to carry momentum into the final.
The first set of the final looked strong as they duo held a five-point lead at the 16-11 mark. However, a five-point run by Brazil was an equalizer that eventually saw them take the set 22-20. The second set saw Brazil jump to the lead first, only to have Ross/Walsh Jennings rally behind for control at 19-18. It didn’t last though, as Brazil closed it out, 21-19.
“Momentum,” Walsh Jennings said to the FIVB. “Just a couple plays here and there and they made good plays. We didn’t take advantage of a couple things, a bad ace at the wrong time, things like that. It’s just the ABCs that fell apart a little bit. Mostly, we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”
The FIVB World Tour continues with the men-only Doha Open from April 4-8, followed by the dual gendered Xiamen Open beginning April 12.
WEEK IN REVIEW
FIVB Vitoria Open
– Kerri Walsh Jennings/April Ross placed second, their fourth podium finish in Olympic qualification
– Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson tied for ninth, their third-consecutive ninth-place finish; their 12th T10 finish in Olympic qualification
– Jennifer Fopma/Brittany Hochevar tied for ninth to tie their best team FIVB finish of ninth, set at the Long Beach Grand Slam in 2015
– Jennifer Kessy/Emily Day tied for ninth, their best finish since taking bronze at the Antalya Open on Oct. 25, 2015
– Sean Rosenthal/Theo Brunner finished 17th, their sixth T25 finish as a team and tying their best finish of 17th, which they’ve now done three times
– Tri Bourne/Mark Burik tied for 17th in their second tournament together
– Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat tied for 25th, their 13th T25 finish in Olympic qualification
– Eliminated in qualification were: Derek Olson/Jeremy Casebeer, Summer Ross/Lane Carico
April 4-8 Doha Open (Men only)
April 12-17 Xiamen Open
April 14-17 AVP New Orleans
April 19-24 Fuzhou Open
April 26-May 1 Fortaleza Open
May 3-8 Sochi Open
May 5-8 AVP Huntington Beach Open
May 10-15 Antalya Open
May 11-16 U21 World Championships
May 17-22 Cincinnati Open
May 20-22 NVL Port St. Lucie
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 24-26 NVL San Antonio
June 28-July 3 Porec Major
FIVB Discovering the secret of winning at home