FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour

Cincinnati Open | 17 - 21 May 2016

#CincinnatiOpen


Press release

Walsh Jennings/A. Ross stop Xue/Xia to win Cincinnati gold


USA's April Ross (right) and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate as the Americans were pushed to the limit to beat China's Chen Xue/Xinyi Xia 18-16 in overtime in the tiebreaker to win the gold at the FIVB Cincinnati Open, presented by AVP

Mason, Ohio, USA, May 21, 2016 – Gold medals on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Tour don’t come easy. USA’s top-seeded home country favorites Kerri Walsh Jennings/April Ross will attest to that as they had to come from behind to finally overcome China’s 11th-seeded Chen Xue/Xinyi Xia in three sets to capture the title of the double-gender FIVB Cincinnati Open, presented by AVP.

The event, which is one of the last three Olympic qualifiers through the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is being held through Saturday at the prominent Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio and the seventh tournament in the stretch of eight straight events on the FIVB World Tour. Next week the FIVB World Tour returns to Russia for the double-gender FIVB Moscow Grand Slam.

In the women’s gold medal finale, USA’s top-seeded Walsh Jennings/A. Ross escaped a home country setback by beating China’s 13th-seeded Xue/Xia in three sets, 20-22, 21-14 and 18-16 in 66 minutes. It was the longest women’s match of the tournament (72 total) and only one that lasted over an hour.

While many know remember Walsh Jennings, 37, and three consecutive Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012 with Misty May Treanor) and April Ross, 33, and an Olympic silver medal (2012 with Jennifer Kessy), China’s Chen Xue, 27, is a two time Olympian for her country, winning the bronze medal in 2008 in Beijing and finishing fourth in 2012 in London with her now-retired teammate Xi Zhang and Xia, just 19, is one of the most promising young athletes in China.

The first set was a sideout affair with the Chinese eventually getting a couple of extra shots to fall for the 22-20 win.

The second set USA came out smoking taking leads of 4-0, 7-1 and 14-6 before the Chinese reeled off seven straight points to close the gap to one at 14-13, USA. USA’s A. Ross seemed to then personally take the game into her hands, scoring six straight points, including three ace serves to reach the first match point at 20-13, After China’s Xia scored on a kill down the left line, A. Ross ended it with a point off of a beautiful dig lob over the net.

The tiebreaker set was a game of runs of multiple points  USA struck sand first for a 2-0 lead and then kept serving the younger Xia and a combination of great defense and some serving errors by the youngster kept things in favor of USA. After USA had a three-point run to go up 13-10, China answered with three straight points capped with an ace by Xue. Xue followed with a long service giving USA its first set and match point at 14-13.

China’s Yia answered with a cross-court kill to put the match into overtime and after exchanging points, USA won the set and the match as Yia served long and then her kill attempt went wide left, giving USA’s Walsh Jennings/A. Ross the victory.

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In the third meeting between the two relatively new teams and first since 20014 in Stavanger, Norway, USA’s Walsh Jennings/A. Ross tandem now has a 3-0 lead in the series. In addition to having played each other three times on the FIVB World Tour, they know each other on and off the court very well as they also train together during the off season in Southern California where China brings its teams every year to train with the Americans and other countries that visit the USA. In the country head-to-head, USA leads China 10-6 in women’s gold medal matches.

In a championship match befitting its stature and Olympic implications, USA’s Walsh Jennings had 12 kills, four digs and four blocks in the championship match while her teammate A. Ross had 22 kills, 16 digs, and six ace serves. Ross’ kills, digs and aces were all match-high totals.

Statistically for the Chinese ladies, Xue had 12 kills, four digs, a game-high six blocks and five aces while Xia recorded 18 kills, and 13 digs.

USA’s Walsh Jennings said after the hard-fought match against their friendly rivals, “They served lights-out and we gave up too many points so we fought back. We got some mojo at the end of the first set and carried that into set 2. April served like the first 10 points it felt like. And then we just kept riding momentum. Game 3 was back and forth. We took the lead and gave it up a little but we just stuck together. That’s what this sport is all about, that’s what sports, that’s what life is all about.  It’s really fun to go to battle with April and I have faith in her regardless of the situation.

Walsh went on to say, “It’s huge. First of all that this tournament happened, the best from the FIVB World Tour coming to Cincinnati and the AVP promoted it, that’s a big deal. We want to grow this sport, we want it to be global. It is global but we want the attention here in the U.S. to be huge. To qualify on home soil warms my heart. It’s amazing; we knew it was coming but it’s really special to do it here. And to top it off with a gold is huge. China is funky, they’re amazing. They do things no other country does so it was really good for us to pull that out. Setting the mind-set is 90 percent of this. Everyone’s physical, everyone’s gifted out here and what’s up here (pointing at her head) is really important.”
 
With her reaction to the match, A. Ross commented, “I learn more and more that it takes a lot of grit to win matches like this. It’s great to be in these situations. If we ever blow out a team, Marcio our coach always says ‘This is not real life, this is not how it’s going to go.’ We need these situations, we need to work together through them and that’s what we did today. It’s a great learning experience and we’re stoked to come out on top.We can definitely play better than we did today. I think our defense was pretty good for the most part. Siding out, we allowed too many points in a row at certain points. Just to tighten that up and work on our rhythm there.”
 
It was USA’s Walsh Jennings/A. Ross 25th career FIVB World Tour event as a duo with 14 final four finishes, including nine gold medals, two silver medals, two bronze Medals and one fourth place finish. They leave Cincinnati with a 7-0 match record in the tournament and 33-2 in their limited appearances on the 2016 FIVB World Tour. Individually, for Walsh Jennings, it was her 111th career FIVB World Tour event with 53 career FIVB gold medals. For A. Ross, it was her 111th career FIVB World Tour event as well as her 19th career FIVB gold medal.

For China’s Xue/Xia, this was their 20th career FIVB World Tour event as a team with five final four finishes including two gold medals, one silver medal and two silver medals. They finish in Cincinnati with a 6-2 tournament record. Individually, Xue now has played in 121 career FIVB World Tour events with 17 gold medals and for Xia it was her 33rd FIVB World Tour event with two career FIVB World Tour gold medals.
 
In their semifinal matches, USA’s Walsh Jennings/A. Ross  defeated Spain’s Liana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo, 21-14, 21-15 in 33 minutes and China’s Xue/ Xia beat Netherlands’ Sophie van Gestel/Jantine van der Vlist, 21-19, 21-17 in 35 minutes.


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