Defending ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball champions April Ross and Stanford grad Kerri Walsh Jennings out-lasted a team from Italy to win their third-straight pool play match at the Long Beach Grand Slam on Thursday to earn a first-round "bye" when elimination bracket play begins Friday on the TrueCar Court at Alamitos Beach.
Seeded eighth in the 32-team Main Draw for the US$800,000 FIVB World Tour event, Ross and Jennings recorded a 22-20, 23-21 win, in 44 minutes, over ninth-seeded Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth of Italy to win Pool H.
It was the ninth international meeting between the two teams with Ross and Walsh Jennings winning six matches.
Menegatti and Orsi Toth had won the previous two matches with the Americans, including a forfeit win over Ross and Walsh Jennings in the Russian Grand Slam earlier this season.
The forfeited match was in the elimination rounds as Walsh Jennings had dislocated her right shoulder earlier in the Moscow competition in pool play.
"The Italians have played us tough," said Walsh Jennings, who is playing in her first FIVB World Tour event since dislocating her right shoulder five weeks ago in the Gstaad Major Series event in Switzerland. "I am glad that we were able to withstand their late charge in the second set as it is nice not to be playing in the first-round of elimination tomorrow."
Ross and Walsh Jennings will play the winner of an All-Switzerland match featuring 20th-seeded Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre against 21st-seeded Joana Heidrich and Nadine Zumkehr.
Forrer and Verge-Depre hold a 2-1 edge over their compatriots in FIVB World Tour matches. Ross and Walsh Jennings have never played Forrer and Verge-Depre and hold a 2-1 edge over Heidrich and Zumkehr.
Reigning world champions and top-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas (Pool A) joined Brazilian compatriots Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca (Pool B) in winning groups Thursday.
Agatha and Barbara finished second to Ross and Walsh Jennings in the 2014 ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball, with the Americans winning the gold medal match, 21-17, 21-17, in 37 minutes.