Ross infused with energy
Poised to make a big run on the FIVB World Tour with Kerri Walsh Jennings, the duo was derailed by Walsh Jennings’ shoulder injury. All Ross did was end up playing with four different partners on the World Tour.
At the Long Beach Grand Slam, with Walsh Jennings serving underhand and not being able to power balls down with her right arm, the ever-improving Ross willed her team into the final. Despite falling to Brazilians Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, Ross still earned MVP honours for the event.
On the Association of Volleyball Professionals domestic tour, Ross played in five events with three different partners and won tournaments with each of the three players.
One might conclude that the off season would be a long one for Ross as she decompressed from the strain of a long year. But with Ross, who will be 34 when the Rio 2016 Olympic Games roll around, she found she had to stop herself instead of pressing on.
“I think if anything, I was infused with energy,” Ross said. “I feel like I learned a lot last year and made some strides. I just want to get better.”
That’s not good news for the rest of the world, particularly if Walsh Jennings’ off-season surgery allows her to be at her best as she continues her quest for a fourth Olympic gold medal. Ross, meanwhile, was actually a bit disappointed to end her own season at all.
“It was actually hard to go and watch other teams go and play somewhere,” Ross said. “I thought about playing more just because I love the sport and I love to travel and everything. But I didn’t feel like it made sense for us as a team.
“I just took as much time as I could to convince myself to take time off and I started getting a little antsy toward the end of November. It wasn’t harder to recover from than any other year.”
Ross is hoping to turn around her finish from London 2012, when she teamed with Jen Kessy to capture silver after falling to Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor in the final.
Ross has 45 career titles and 99 top-3 finishes in her career. With Walsh Jennings over the past two seasons, they have played in 20 tournaments and won six of them.
Needless to say, Ross couldn’t wait for the new season to get underway.
“Once 2016 hit, it was kind of like game time,” Ross said. “There are a lot of tournaments before the Olympics so we’re really focused on doing as well as we can in those.
“We’re training really hard, but honestly for me, it’s about doing the best you can every day and improving every day, becoming the best you can be. And excelling in each one of those tournaments and hopefully when we make the Olympics, all your focus just goes to that.”
Any partner of Walsh Jennings might have to fly under the radar and naturally, the season will start with an onslaught of questions about the surgically repaired shoulder. Ross, though, has no worries.
“Her recovery has been really good,” Ross said. “She’s ahead of schedule, she’s doing really well, I’m impressed with her strength and everything. I don’t know how long that’s going to be a story.”
She paused for a little laugh. Yet there is little doubt of how serious she is about making a run at the gold medal.