April Ross, Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross complete perfect AVP season after wardrobe malfunction

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Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross won the season-ending AVP Championships in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Sunday, completing a sweep of all seven AVP tournaments this season with a 36-0 match record and 72-4 set record.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, defeated Heather Hughes and Whitney Pavlik 22-20, 21-17 in the AVP Championships final. Walsh Jennings and Ross are in their first full season together as partners.

“To have done it together as a new team, chasing big dreams, it feels really, really good,” Walsh Jennings said, according to The Associated Press. “We’ve grown so much on our push toward Rio [2016 Olympics]. It’s the best thing in the world to have the biggest target on your back. It means you’re the best.”

Walsh Jennings and Ross played in Huntington Beach with keys looped through chains around their necks. Walsh Jennings’ key had the word “breathe” inscribed, and Ross’ had “dream,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The tournament victory didn’t come without a little drama. Ross’ bikini top snapped off during play Friday. The (Torrance, Calif.) Daily Breeze has the report:

She immediately hit the sand on her stomach while the crowd tried to absorb what just happened.

As Ross lay on the sand, Walsh Jennings trotted over to the sideline to pick up a towel so she could escort her partner and solve the wardrobe malfunction.

“It was a very dramatic moment,” Walsh Jennings said, smiling.

But they were ready for the contingency, since it happened during a practice this week in Hermosa Beach.

“It’s happened to us a couple times, so we were prepared,” Ross said. “I brought an extra bathing suit top, so we were good. Good thing my reactions are so quick. I think I did OK.”

Walsh Jennings, 36 and a mother of three, won her 124th career beach volleyball tournament. She’ll go for No. 125, with Ross, at the final FIVB World Tour Grand Slam event in Sao Paulo this week. They’ve won four FIVB World Tour events this season, twice as many as any other pair, but the new Brazilian team of Larissa and Talita captured the last two tournaments.

“By the end of a tournament my nerves are fried,” Walsh Jennings said, according to the Daily Breeze. “It’s great to have that problem, and I want to have that problem until I retire.”

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

U.S. beats Japan in Olympic baseball qualifier, may still need help

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The U.S. handed Japan its first loss in the Premier12 global Olympic baseball qualifier, at the Tokyo Dome no less, but now the Americans must root for the host nation.

The Americans, with a roster mostly of Double-A and Triple-A players, won 4-3 over a Japanese team that includes some of its domestic league’s biggest stars like two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru and veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Outfielder Jo Adell, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect on the U.S. team, starred by reaching base four times with a home run.

Japan is already qualified for baseball’s Olympic return as the host nation.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a sense of urgency at Premier12, the first of a possible three tournaments in which it could clinch an Olympic spot.

At Premier12, the top-ranked nation from North and South America qualifies for the Olympics. The tournament is at the super-round stage of the final six teams, and two are from the Americas: the U.S. and Mexico.

The top four nations after each has played five games advance to gold- and bronze-medal games.

Mexico already beat the U.S. and ran its super-round record to 3-0 on Tuesday, clinching a spot in the medal round.

The U.S. moved to 1-2 in the super round on Tuesday and must at least get into the same medal-round game as Mexico to keep its hope of finishing as the top team from the Americas.

Japan could help, since it plays Mexico on Wednesday. If Mexico beats Japan, the Mexicans clinch a spot in the gold-medal game, which would put more pressure on the U.S. to win its last two games (vs. Australia on Wednesday and Chinese Taipei on Friday). Even then, South Korea would get into the gold-medal game if it wins out.

If the U.S. is not the top team from the Americas at Premier12, it can still earn an Olympic berth in March. But then it faces trying to come up with a roster at the end of MLB’s spring training rather than during the offseason. MLB teams may be less inclined to release minor leaguers.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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College gymnast dies after practice accident

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and was captain of the school’s gymnastics team. She was named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year.

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained a level 10, the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

She was a junior studying nursing, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, her mother said.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” Susan Coleman said. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

Her coaches and professors described her as a special young woman who excelled in both the classroom and gym, college President Joe Berolino said in a written statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he said.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is “holding us up,” Coleman’s mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as “inseparable.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, Susan Coleman said.