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April Ross wins first tournament since splitting with Kerri Walsh Jennings

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April Ross and Whitney Pavlik defeated Kim Dicello and Emily Stockman 2-1 (14-21, 21-16, 15-11) to win the AVP Austin Open on Sunday. It was the first victory for Ross since splitting with 2016 Olympic bronze medal teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings in April.

“It’s been a rough couple of weeks partner-wise, but Whitney stepped in and did amazing,” said Ross, who served an ace on match point.

Ross had not won a tournament without Walsh Jennings since 2015, when she claimed the AVP Huntington Beach title with Lauren Fendrick.

Ross plans on playing with Fendrick, who partnered with Brooke Sweat at the Rio Olympics, for the rest of the AVP and international season, beginning at the FIVB World Tour event in Moscow in early June. Ross teamed with Pavlik in Austin because Fendrick was playing at the FIVB World Tour event in Rio, where she finished tied for 17th with Lane Carico. Longtime friends Ross and Pavlik placed third earlier this month at the Huntington Beach Open.

Ross told OlympicTalk that “the final nail in the coffin” for her partnership with Walsh Jennings was when Ross signed an exclusivity agreement with the AVP for domestic events leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, while Walsh Jennings decided not to. But Ross made it clear that the split was not a “negative thing,” and Walsh Jennings wrote that she has “so much love in my heart for April” in a Facebook post.

Walsh Jennings is expected to make her international debut with her new partner, who has not been announced, at the FIVB World Tour stop in Croatia the last week of June.

NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will air Austin Open coverage Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.

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MORE: April Ross details future after split with Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kerri Walsh Jennings eyes World Championships return

Kerri Walsh Jennings
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Three-time Olympic beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh Jennings will miss this week’s FIVB World Tour event in St. Petersburg, Fla., and plans to return to competition from a dislocated right shoulder at next week’s World Beach Volleyball Championships, according to her social media.

“I have no major damage (aside from a mental scar from seeing my shoulder out of place ) and have been making good steady progress,” Walsh Jennings, a 36-year-old mother of three with four prior shoulder surgeries, said on Facebook.

Walsh Jennings dislocated her right shoulder playing with Olympic silver medalist partner April Ross on May 27 in Moscow.

Ross will play with Whitney Pavlik this week, according to Walsh Jennings’ post.

Brazil’s Larissa and Talita and Walsh Jennings and Ross both won four FIVB World Tour events last season, twice as many as any other pair.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings’ ab strain delays her appearance in Long Beach event

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Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings withdrew from this week’s Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., with an ab strain, but she will still play this weekend at the site’s World Series Cup event.

Walsh, 34, who gave birth to her third child, daughter Scout, in April, said she felt the injury coming on after her first match since the London Olympics.

She debuted with new partner and Olympic silver medalist April Ross at an FIVB event in Gstaad, Switzerland, two weeks ago. They were eliminated before the quarterfinals after going 3-0 in pool play.

“Every day my abs on the right side started to get tighter and tighter and tighter,” Walsh Jennings said in a phone interview Monday before going out to test her abs for the first time since July 12. “By the end of the second day, I said ‘Oh, I’ve got to get it worked on.’ I had no power. I couldn’t reach anything overhead.”

Walsh Jennings spoke to doctors, who were confident she didn’t tear any muscles but suffered a significant strain.

“When I play, I want to go out and win,” Walsh Jennings said. “I didn’t want to come back premature and out of shape and just play to play. I have too much respect for the game to do that.”

So Walsh will take the extra few days between now and the World Series Cup, which she likened to golf’s Ryder Cup, to get back to full strength.

The World Series Cup will pit a U.S. team against a U.S. team and an international team against an international team on Saturday in Long Beach. The winners of those two matches will play a final Sunday, separate from the FIVB Grand Slam event.

Walsh Jennings will partner with Whitney Pavlik. They’ll play the Olympic silver medal pair of Ross and Jennifer Kessy in one semifinal. The international semifinal will include the recently crowned world champions, Xue Chen and Zhang Xi of China.

Walsh Jennings said Ross and Kessy will finish out the season together before she and Ross become permanent partners. Walsh Jennings and Pavlik will next play an AVP Tour event in Salt Lake City on Aug. 17-18.

The World Series of Beach Volleyball is the first FIVB Grand Slam event to be played in the U.S. in 10 years. Complete information on the event can be found at WSOBV.com.

NBC, NBC Sports Network and Universal Sports will have coverage beginning Thursday and through the weekend. Full listings here.

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