Kerri Walsh Jennings may be the greatest beach volleyball player of all time, but she was reportedly turned down by her top choice for a new partner after splitting from April Ross.
Walsh Jennings had her eye on promising 22-year-old Sara Hughes after a four-year partnership with Ross ended in May.
“All I wanted to do was play with [Hughes],” Walsh Jennings said recently, according to ESPN.com.
Walsh Jennings reached out multiple times, but Hughes turned her down, according to the report.
Hughes, arguably the most promising U.S. beach prospect since Walsh Jennings in the early 2000s, chose to continue her budding partnership with former University of Southern California teammate Kelly Claes.
Hughes and Claes, while still at USC, were the only pair to take a set off Walsh Jennings and Ross in 2016 AVP play, losing in three sets a month and a half before Rio.
Hughes and Claes had scant international experience at the time and thus did not make the Rio Olympic team.
But this season, they have made two FIVB World Tour event quarterfinals after being part of a fourth straight NCAA title-winning team at USC. They’re one of the top U.S. pairs heading into the world championships in three weeks.
After Hughes declined, Walsh Jennings found her new partner later in May in Nicole Branagh, a 2008 Olympian and 38-year-old mother of two. Walsh Jennings, also 38, has three kids.
Walsh Jennings and Branagh lost their first three matches together before reaching the round of 16 in Gstaad, Switzerland, last week. (Walsh Jennings lost four straight overall dating to her last match with Ross, marking the longest losing streak in her 16-year career)
Walsh Jennings has repeated that she and Branagh will decide after this season whether they will continue playing together.
However, they both said they hope to play together through the Tokyo Olympics, according to ESPN, which also reported that Walsh Jennings may have retired after Rio had she and Ross won gold instead of bronze.
Come Tokyo 2020, Walsh Jennings and Branagh will both be older than any previous Olympic men’s or women’s indoor or beach volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.
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