Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross would not go back to old partners

April Ross, Kerri Walsh
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Imagine this scenario: Misty May-Treanor decides she wants to unretire and go for a fourth straight Olympic beach volleyball gold medal. The first person she calls is her old partner, Kerri Walsh Jennings, who is currently playing with new partner April Ross.

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A similar instance occurred before the 2011 season. May-Treanor decided in 2010 she would take the next year off and was uncertain about her future, so Walsh Jennings partnered with Nicole Branagh.

But May-Treanor had a change of heart and told Walsh Jennings she was coming back, either with Walsh Jennings or with a new partner if she had to.

Walsh Jennings made a friendly split with Branagh, teamed up with May-Treanor again, and they won a third Olympic gold a year later in London.

So, what would Walsh Jennings say if May-Treanor, retired since London, called her with comeback plans again?

“I would say, thank you for calling me, I really appreciate that and tell her good luck,” Walsh Jennings said.

She’d stick with Ross. The makings of their partnership were born at the London Olympics, where Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor beat Ross and Jennifer Kessy in an all-American gold-medal match. Walsh Jennings told Ross, “Let’s go win gold in Rio,” when they shook hands after the final point.

Walsh Jennings and Ross didn’t make it official until later, after Walsh Jennings called May-Treanor one more time.

“[May-Treanor] left the door open for sure, even if it was a millimeter,” Walsh Jennings said.

“It will be what it will be; I’d have to figure out my own side,” May-Treanor essentially said, according to Walsh Jennings.

“I’m committed so much with April,” said Walsh Jennings, who has won four FIVB World Tour events in her first full season with Ross this year and six straight AVP tournaments, including this past week in Atlantic City, N.J. “It was such a unique situation last time around [four years ago with Branagh and May-Treanor].”

Likewise, Ross’ Olympic partner stepped away from beach volleyball after London. Kessy decided to start a family and then return to the sport. But she will not be coming back to play with Ross.

“I had such a great time playing with Jen, and I’m so happy with how we did, but this is my team now,” Ross said. “I’m 100 percent committed. There would be no thought in my head regarding changing teammates at this point.”

Walsh Jennings and Ross have twice as many international wins as any other team this year. Last week, Ross said they will play at the AVP Championships in Huntington Beach, Calif., from Sept. 18-21, followed by the final FIVB Grand Slam in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the next week. Sao Paulo would likely be their last tournament of the year, Ross said.

Sao Paulo could provide a preview of the kind of atmosphere to expect at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has been the biggest rival to the U.S. since beach volleyball was added to the Olympics in 1996. Ross said the most heated environment she’s faced in her career wasn’t in Brazil but in Austria.

“In Brazil, they’re just fans of volleyball,” Ross said. “They want to get your picture and get your autograph. They’re just fans of the sport.”

Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won their first World Championship together in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

“We don’t speak their language, so if they’re heckling we have no idea what they’re saying,” Walsh Jennings said. “They’re loud and crazy, and it’s hot. Misty and I tried to quiet the crowd. That’s definitely the goal in Rio [in 2016], to quiet the Brazilians.”

Adding to the anticipation of Sao Paulo is the new Brazilian team of Talita and Larissa, which has won the last two FIVB World Tour events. Larissa, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist with Juliana, came out of retirement earlier this year. Walsh Jennings and Ross have yet to play Talita and Larissa.

“They’re probably No. 1 on our radar right now,” Ross said. “We have to play them to figure out what the matchup’s going to be like to figure out how to beat them.”

FIFA alternative 2022 World Cup date could clash with Winter Olympics

U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

FIBA Women's World Cup Basketball
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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. Australia vs. China Semifinals
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final