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Ross cherishes elimination bye

American April Ross found her rhythm with Kerri Walsh Jennings in the second set of their Pool B match with Brazil Thursday morning to win their group at the Vitória Open on Camburi beach.
Vitória, Brazil, March 17, 2016 - A typical FIVB World Tour event is divided into two or three competitions depending on the number of entries in a given tournament. Within the 'money' rounds the competition has two different formats where the pool winners earn valuable byes for the first-round of single-elimination bracket play.

So when second-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings were asked after their third Pool B win here Thursday morning in the $150,000 Vitória Open over 15th-seeded qualifiers Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa and Elize Maia of Brazil, the two American Olympic medallists had somewhat different opinions on the format.

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“I like it as I feel that I get into the rhythm of the tournament,” said Ross, who has been competing full-time on the FIVB World Tour since 2007 with the Vitória Open being her 108th international event. “And the best thing, if you win your pool, you receive a bye into the second-round of elimination. But gaining your rhythm is important to get you started.”

For Walsh Jennings, who started playing full-time on the international circuit in 2001 with her three-time Olympic gold medal partner, she would like to see “a mix between the pool/elimination and double-elimination formats. I like to mix it up with the FIVB Grand Slam and SWATCH Major events featuring pool play/elimination and the open tournaments double-elimination.”

Either way, both Americans were extremely happy after winning Pool B Thursday to advance to second-round round of elimination Friday afternoon.  “I think we both agree with one thing, we love getting the extra rest,” said Ross, who captured the silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Jen Kessy.


After posting wins Wednesday over pairs from Austria and Russia, Ross and Walsh Jennings earned their bye and a guaranteed ninth-place finish in the Vitória Open by defeating the 17-year old Duda and Eliza Maia 2-0 (23-21, 21-8) in a 32 minute match. The Americans led 20-17 in the first set, but were tied at 20s and 21s before winning.

In the second set, Ross and Walsh Jennings controlled the set from the start to post their 62nd FIVB pool play win in 66 matches (93.9 winning percentage). Two of the losses were by forfeit when Walsh Jennings dislocated her right should last May at the Russian Grand Slam in Moscow.

“Our setting was much better in the second set,” said Ross, who captured the gold medal with Kessy at the 2009 FIVB World Championships in Stavanger, Norway.  “As you can see, we gained our setting rhythm in the second set. The Brazilians played very well in the first set, but our play was a lot better in the final set.”


With the Vitória Open being Ross and Walsh Jennings’ 22nd FIVB World Tour event, the Americans will be seeking their second-straight international title after winning last week’s Rio Grand Slam gold medal on Copacabana where the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be played August 6-18.

Ross and Walsh Jennings have a 105-19 FIVB World Tour match mark together with seven gold medals, nine podium placements and 10 final four finishes. The Americans have only lost two of 22 FIVB pools that they have played since forming their partnership in 2013.

Top-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil also won their third Pool A match of the Vitória Open by defeating 16th-seeded Linline Matauatu and Pata Miller of Vanuatu 2-0 (21-10, 21-11) in 26minutes. With this week’s event being the Brazilian Olympians' 19th FIVB World Tour event, Talita and Larissa have never finished second in a pool since forming their partnership in July 2014.

Vanuatu's Miller Pata working against Brazil's Talita Antunes


Talita and Larissa, who have placed ninth in their first two events this season despite winning their pools, are now 55-2 (96.4%) in group play with an overall match record of 102-10. Talita and Larissa have 10 gold medals together on the FIVB World Tour highlighted by a podium topping effort last October at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals in the United States on Fort Lauderdale beach in south Florida.

Both Larissa and Walsh Jennings have been part of the two winningest women’s teams in FIVB World Tour history. Larissa and Juliana Felisberta won 45 FIVB titles together (2004-2012) with one world title (2011). Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor (2001-2012) topped FIVB podiums 40 times internationally with two World Championship titles (2003 and 2007). For the record, Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won 131 of 134 pool play matches (97.8%) while Larissa and Juliana were 99-11 (90.0%).


Other pool winners Thursday were third-seeded Juliana/Taiana Lima of Brazil (Pool C), fourth-seeded Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia (Pool D), fifth-seeded qualifiers Karla Borger/Britta Büthe of Germany (Pool E), eighth-seeded Marta Menegatti/Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy (Pool H), 10th-seeded Maria Antonelli/Liliane Maestrini of Brazil (Pool G), 22nd-seeded Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude of Germany (Pool F).

The fifth FIVB World Tour event for women on the 2015-2016 calendar is being played on Camburi beach where the world’s best beach volleyball returned for the first time since 2006. The men’s and women’s elimination rounds will be played Friday with the quarter and semifinal matches Saturday.

The medal matches for both genders will be played Sunday where the winning pairs will split the $11,000 first-place prize. The early season FIVB World Tour swing through Brazil concludes with the Vitória Open after previous stops in Maceió (February 23-28) and on iconic Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro (March 8-13).


Following the Vitória Open, the FIVB World Tour will take a two-week break before resuming action April 4-8 for the men’s-only event in Doha, Qatar. Before returning to Brazil for the Fortaleza Open at the end of April, two double-gender events will be staged in China at Xiamen (April 12-17) and Fuzhou (April 19-24).


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