Playing in only their second FIVB event together, Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross swept the Sao Paulo Grand Slam, playing and winning seven matches (five of which went to three sets) before taking gold. Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany had the misfortune of meeting the USA’s new dream team in the final. The two teams battled for the win with the Germans losing the first 19-21, managing to win the second 31-29, but ultimately falling 12-15 in the third.
To get to the final, Walsh Jennings and Ross won their pool, giving them a bye in the first round of the tournament. Then they proceeded to defeated No. 3-seeded Brazilians Liliane Maestrini and Barbara Seixas de Freitas to meet fellow Americans Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar in the third round, a match which Ross and Walsh Jennings won 21-18, 21-17.
The third American team that broke pool on the women’s side, Emily Day and Summer Ross, did so barely, taking third in their pool, and were thus forced to face eventual bronze medalists Agatha Bednarczuk and Maria Antonelli of Brazil in the first round, losing 18-21, 19-21.
The U.S. had four men’s teams in the competition in Brazil, but John Mayer and Brad Keenan failed to qualify, leaving only the mash-up partnerships of Nick Lucena with Ryan Doherty and Phil Dalhausser with Casey Jennings (due to Sean Rosenthal’s back injury) and, of course, the now very familiar Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson.
Somewhat surprisingly, Dalhausser and Jennings blew past the rest of the American teams to take their place in the final against Pedro Salgado and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil. Although the Americans lost that match 21-23, 21-19, 13-15, Jennings proved for the second time this season that even at 38, he can still bust out championship performances when needed. The match marked the first time in the 27-year history of the FIVB that a married couple appeared in the gold-medal match at the same tournament.
On their way to the silver medal, Dalhausser and Jennings knocked out Gibb and Patterson in the third round, leaving the four-time AVP champion duo with a fifth-place finish. Lucena and Doherty also met their end in the third round at the hands of Spaniards Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira.
Originally published in January 2014