RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: 
Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat of United States react playing against Ekaterina Birlova and Evgenia Ukolova of Russia during the Beach Volleyball - Women's Preliminary - Pool A, Match 25 on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympics at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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U.S. beach volleyball Olympians open season with new partners

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All of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball players from Rio are signed up for the 2017 season opener next month, but half of the pairs have split up.

Following Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson‘s partingLauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat are also with new partners for an FIVB World Tour event in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The full entry lists are here.

Fendrick signed up with Sara Hughes, a USC senior who has played in four career FIVB World Tour events. Sweat is with veteran Summer Ross.

In Rio, Fendrick and Sweat became the first U.S. women to go winless at an Olympics, dropping all three of their group-play matches. In three seasons together from 2014-16, they reached nine quarterfinals on the FIVB World Tour, plus at the 2015 World Championships, but never a semifinal.

The top U.S. beach teams — Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross and Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena — are among the favorites in Fort Lauderdale.

The men’s field is led by Olympic gold and silver medalists Alison and Bruno of Brazil and Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai of Italy.

Missing are Olympic bronze medalists Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands. Brazil’s No. 2 team of Pedro and Evandro split and are entered with new partners.

On the women’s side, Walsh Jennings and Ross are the only Olympic medalists slated to play together in Fort Lauderdale. Rio gold medalist Laura Ludwig of Germany is out due to shoulder surgery, so Kira Walkenhorst is with a substitute partner.

The Brazilian silver medalists Agatha and Barbara split after Rio and are entered in Fort Lauderdale with new partners.

MORE: Change of plans for April Ross in 2017

April Ross changes plans for 2017

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17:  Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross of the United States celebrate a point during the Beach Volleyball Women's Bronze medal match against Larissa Franca Maestrini and Talita Rocha of Brazil on day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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April Ross will play beach volleyball in 2017 after all.

Ross had hoped to get pregnant this offseason, but those plans have changed, according to USA Volleyball and Ross’ agent.

Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings are planning to embark on their fourth full season together at the start of the FIVB World Tour calendar in February, Walsh Jennings’ agent said.

Ross, 34, said in September that if she didn’t get pregnant this offseason, she would try again next offseason, which would mean she would miss 2018, the only season in the cycle without a world championships or Olympics.

Ross and Walsh Jennings took bronze at the Rio Olympics, getting upset by Brazil’s No. 2 team, Agatha and Barbara, in the semifinals and beating Brazil’s top team, Larissa and Talita, in the bronze-medal match.

Something Ross and Walsh Jennings can work toward in 2017 are the world championships in Vienna, Austria, in July and August.

They fell in the round of 16 in their only other worlds appearance in 2015, when Walsh Jennings was playing for the first time since dislocating her right shoulder the month prior.

Walsh Jennings won three straight world titles with Misty May-Treanor in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Ross won the next world title with Jennifer Kessy in 2009. No U.S. men’s or women’s pair has won a world title since.

MORE: LA traffic ends U.S. Olympic beach volleyball partnership

LA traffic ends U.S. Olympic beach volleyball partnership

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Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson have been nearly inseparable as neighbors in Huntington Beach, Calif. since teaming up in 2013.

They can often be found playing co-ed beach volleyball with their wives. They even take their kids to the same preschool.

But when Patterson moved roughly 75 miles to Thousand Oaks for a new job recently, the 2016 AVP Men’s Team of the Year decided to end their partnership.

“It’s about a two-hour drive north, at best,” Gibb said in a phone interview. “We could have tried to make it work, but it just didn’t make sense.”

They considered breaking up even before the partnership became geographically undesirable when Patterson accepted the Beach Volleyball Director position at Sports Academy, a sports and fitness facility that he describes as a “Disneyland for athletes.”

They underwhelmed at the 2016 Olympics, finishing last in their pool after arriving in Rio as the No. 6 seed out of 24 teams. By the end of the 2016 international season, Tri Bourne and John Hyden had passed Gibb and Patterson in the standings as the second-best U.S. team, behind Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena.

“We needed something to change to ignite the fire again,” Patterson said.

The offseason after an Olympics often turns into a drama-filled frenzy as beach volleyball players search for new partners for the next quadrennial. Kerri Walsh Jennings famously approached rival April Ross at the net after the 2012 Olympic gold medal match to discuss a potential partnership.

Patterson reached out to Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist. Patterson revealed that he had decided to become a defensive specialist with the goal of eventually partnering with Dalhausser, a dominant blocker. Dalhausser listened, but ultimately remained with Lucena.

“Both of those guys are so rad that the thought of attempting to break them up was tough for me,” Patterson said. “But you have to try.”

Patterson also approached Tri Bourne, Theo Brunner and Ryan Doherty. Once the partnership carousel stopped spinning, Patterson aligned Brunner, Lucena’s former teammate.

“It’s like the ‘Real Housewives of Beach Volleyball,’” Patterson said. “There’s so much drama when guys are trying to find a new partner.”

Gibb will play with Taylor Crabb, who was named the 2016 AVP Defender of the Year. Gibb said that Crabb reminds him of Sean Rosenthal, his partner when he finished fifth at both the 2008 and 2012 Games.

“[Crabb] is incredibly gifted,” Gibb said. “His beach IQ is through the roof.”

Gibb and Patterson are expected to debut with their new partners on Feb. 7 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Gibb will be 44 years old during the 2020 Tokyo Games. He would become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player of all time if he represents the U.S. in Tokyo.

“I can’t turn away from this sport as long as I think I can still win,” Gibb said. “I still feel like I can, so I am going to keep playing.”

U.S. beach volleyball teams (Partners since)

Tri Bourne/John Hyden (2013)
Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena (2015)
Ryan Doherty/John Mayer (2015)
Theo Brunner/Casey Patterson (New)
Taylor Crabb/Jake Gibb (New)
Trevor Crabb/Sean Rosenthal (New)

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings ponders future with April Ross starting a family