Olympic bronze medalists Walsh Jennings, Ross find gold on the beach


USA Olympic bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross proved golden on home soil, beating Spain's Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo, 21-16, 21-16, in a 50-minute, internationally-televised gold medal match Sunday at the $800,000 FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam.

The top-seeded American duo won in the 2016 FIVB World Tour regular season finale.

Walsh Jennings and Ross split $57,000 and 800 points, while the silver medalists split $43,000 and 720 points, the bronze $32,000 and 640 points and fourth place $24,000 and 560 points.

“We’re always shooting for the gold medal and we put ourselves in the position we want and it’s about executing when the time comes,” Walsh-Jennings said. “We won ugly the first couple matches and this is the first time it felt kind of pretty.”

The Americans remain unbeaten with a 4-0 record against the Spaniards including three this season. Prior to Sunday, USA’s Walsh Jennings and Ross defeated Spain’s Lili and Elsa in two sets in the semifinals of this year’s FIVB Cincinnati Open and the quarterfinals at this year’s Swatch FIVB Hamburg Major in Germany.

USA’s Walsh Jennings and Ross tandem has won two of the last three gold medals at the ASICS World Series of Volleyball, sandwiched around the silver medal in 2015.

In the first set, Spain led early at 5-4 that would be their last lead of the match. USA scored 10 real points in the first set, including five aces.

The second set was much closer and was tied nine times, the last at 11-11. Spain trailed 16-14, but USA ended the set and match on a 5-2 run.

“I was touching balls (on the block), but they were weird and they were hard to play,” Walsh-Jennings said. “April played amazing defense so she compensated for my lack of blocks but that made it much better. When she’s digging balls she makes me bigger at the net and when I’m blocking balls it makes her bigger behind me. It’s always a collaboration out there.”

This was the 19th final four appearance for Walsh Jennings and Ross in 30 career FIVB World Tour events as a team.

They have 11 gold medals, three silver medals, three bronze medals and two fourth-place finishes. Individually, this was the 1,116th FIVB World Tour event for both Americans.

Walsh Jennings now has 55 FIVB gold medals and Ross has 21 career FIVB World Tour gold medals.

Statistically speaking, USA’s Walsh Jennings record 14 kills, two blocks and two ace serves in the gold medal match. Her teammate Ross had 12 kills, four aces and three digs.

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