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Kerri Walsh Jennings in world champs field with new partner

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Kerri Walsh Jennings and new partner Nicole Branagh are in the field for the Beach Volleyball World Championships in Vienna, Austria, that start July 28.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh, who last played together in 2012, earned the fourth and final U.S. women’s spot for worlds. They had a low number of combined ranking points due mainly to Branagh’s absence from international play the last two years.

The top three U.S. pairs in FIVB rankings received direct entry — Brooke Sweat and Summer RossApril Ross (Walsh Jennings’ former partner) and Lauren Fendrick and Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh made the field via continental representation after the top 23 from FIVB rankings and two host-country wild cards were named. The full field will be 48 teams.

The top two seeds are Brazilians Larissa and Talita (fourth at the Olympics) and German Olympic champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.

The men’s field includes Olympic champions Alison and Bruno of Brazil, plus Americans Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who are ranked No. 1 in the world.

Walsh Jennings won three straight world titles with Misty May-Treanor in 2003, 2005 and 2007, in addition to their three straight Olympic titles in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Walsh Jennings and April Ross were upset in the round of 16 at the 2015 World Championships before taking bronze at the Rio Games.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are to make their FIVB World Tour season debut in three weeks in Porec, Croatia, and the following week in Gstaad, Switzerland.

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MORE: Ross wins first event since split with Walsh Jennings

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly named Sara Hughes’ partner. She is Kelly Claes, not Emily.

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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MORE: AL MVP nixes unretirement for Olympic baseball qualifying

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.