Ross/Walsh Jennings capture women’s gold on home sand
After an absence of 10 years, the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event was held for the second straight year in sunny Southern California in Long Beach, Calif. in the purpose-built site located on the sands of the Alamitos Beach adjacent to Marina Green Park.
Since the international Olympic sport was invented nearly 30 years ago, the two most dominant countries have been Brazil and the United States as women’s teams from those two pre-eminent countries met for the 90th time in an FIVB World Tour gold medal match. With USA winning, the series history now stands at 50-40 in the favor of USA.
This year’s ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, a $1,000,000 FIVB Grand Slam, was the third of four consecutive FIVB Grand Slam tournaments being held in four separate countries—Switzerland, The Netherlands, the United States and Austria. The tournament featured extensive coverage by the NBC family of networks throughout the week. Overall the event is a SoCal beach festival that has included 4-person and 6-person recreational events, a youth tournament and nightly music concerts.
FIVB PURSE, TOURNEY TOTALS
The ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, a $1,000,000 FIVB Grand Slam, was the 307th FIVB men’s tournament since its first event in 1987 and the 271st FIVB women’s tournament since FIVB began women’s competitions in 1992. Gold medal winning teams in each gender in Long Beach will split $70,000, silver will receive $52,000, bronze medalists get $40,000 and the fourth place finishers will earn $30,000 of the $1,000,000 total purse.
GOLD MEDAL REVIEW
Thriving on the enthusiasm and constant cheering over an overflow home-country crowd on the Long Beach center court, USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings played methodically like the champions that they are to overpower Brazil’s Bednarczuk/Seixas in straight sets, 21-17, 21-17 in a powerful 37-minute gold medal finale.
In the first set, the score was tied five times with the last at 6-6, and with the score 8-7, the USA ran off five of the next six points to take a 13-8 lead. Brazil rallied to close within three point s three times before Brazil had a service error to end the match in favor of the USA.
In the deciding second set, USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings struck first scoring the first two points as Brazil’s Bednarczuk served an ace to tie the match at 8-8. Tied for the next three points, USA scored on consecutive Walsh Jennings cross court kill and a Ross block to start pulling away, eventually building a five-point margin at 19-14. After Brazil saved one set and match point, USA’s Ross ended the set and match with another voracious kill down the middle.
Brazil’s only lead in the match was at 5-4 in the first set and when it was tied at 10-10 in the second set, the USA turned up the heat and went on a 7-2 run.
Playing near flawlessly in the match, Ross recorded 11 kills, two blocks and six digs while having just one hitting error for the entire match. Walsh Jennings recorded a game-high 21 kills, one block and eight digs with her only hitting error on the first match point attempt. For Brazil, Seixas had 19 kills, one ace serve and seven digs while Bednarczuk contributed nine kills, one block, one ace and three digs.
Finishing the tournament with an unblemished 7-0 match record, USA’s Ross/Walsh Jennings took the lead in the series history between the two teams at 2-1 while winning their sixth gold medal in the 11 FIVB World Tour events they have played as a team..
Brazil’s Bednarczuk/Seixas ended the tournament with a 6-1 record and their first silver medal and fourth final four appearance in 18 FIVB World Tour events as a team. Bednarczuk has made nine final four appearances with one gold and three silvers in the 73 tournaments she has played over eight seasons. Seixas has made seven final four appearances with one gold and two silvers in the 38 tournaments she has played on the FIVB World Tour.
As a team, USA’s A. Ross/Walsh Jennings tandem were playing their 11th tournament as a team with six gold medals in six final four appearances. Individually, three-time Olympic gold medalist Walsh Jennings has made 75 final four appearances with 50 FIVB gold medals and 15 silver in the 97 tournaments she has played in over the last 13 seasons. Olympic silver medalists (2012) A. Ross is in her ninth FIVB World Tour season with 42 final four appearances with 16 FIVB career gold medals and 12 silver in the 94 tournaments she has played.
Enjoying a post-match center court celebration with her American fans, Ross commented, “For Kerri it was working great. I had a little trouble out there playing defense which is why we were blocking, and Kerri had some key digs. That team is so good, I’m sure we’re going to see them a bunch in later rounds and many tournaments to come. I’m just so proud of how we played together, that was the epitome of teamwork in that game.”
The effervescent Walsh Jennings said, “Even when the bad tournaments happen it takes us one step closer to our ultimate goal which is gold in Rio. We’ve wanted to win this tournament so bad here for ourselves, for our coach, for our family and friends. Even in the trying times it’s making us stronger. But today our heads are high, we’re super stoked and we took home the gold.”
BRONZE MEDAL REVIEW
In the bodacious bronze medal match Sunday morning, Slovak Republic’s 14th-seeded Dominika Nestarcova/Natalia Dubovcova went to a tie-breaking three sets that was literally point-for-point before finally upsetting Spain’s fourth-seeded Olympians Liliana Fernandez/Elsa Baquerizo, 21-19, 12-21 and 15-13 in 49 minutes.
After splitting the first two sets with each team dominating their winning set, the third set was tied 10 times including at 11, 12 and 13 before Spain had a service error and a hitting error to record the final two points of the match in favor of Slovak Republic.
For Slovak Republic’s Nestarcova/Dubovcova, the win proved to be the third time was the charm as they had lost both previous meetings this year to Spain’s Fernandez/Baquerizo before Sunday’s bronze medal match.
Thrilled, as could be expected, Slovak Republic’s Nestarcova said after the match, “I just want to thank Nata (Dubovcova) because she played really well today and I didn’t. But I think we did have good teamwork and sometimes Nata plays worse sometimes I play worse. It’s really important to play like a team and help each other so she helped me today a lot so I would like to thank her. And I just want to say that the second set it was like I wanted to play catcher and she played line and if I wanted to play line she played catcher, so I was a little confused. But in the third set we did better and we won so that’s important.”
Slovak Republic’s Nestarcova/Dubovcova finished the tournament with a 6-1 record and their second bronze medal of the season while Spain’s higher-seeded Fernandez/Baquerizo ended with a 5-3 match record in this tournament
For Spain’s Fernandez/Baquerizo duo, this was their seventh final four appearance in 70 FIVB World Tour events as a team over the last eight years with three silver medals and one bronze.
Playing nearly their entire FIVB careers together, Slovak Republic’s Nestarcova/Dubovcova tandem has played 41 FIVB World Tour events together and this was their second final four appearance with two bronze medals, this one added to the one they earned this season in Stavanger, Norway.