Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross won their second consecutive gold medal, emerging victorious at the FIVB World Tour Cincinnati Open, also an AVP Tour event, Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 win over Chen Xue and Xinyi Xia of China.
The two teams split the first two sets, with the first going to the Chinese by a 22-20 score and the second to the Americans, 21-14. The tournament’s No. 1 seed, Walsh Jennings/Ross jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the third set, but Xue and Xia fought their way back, drawing even at 13 apiece and setting up a thrilling finale to the match. The Americans would take a one-point lead, only to have the Chinese pull them back, a run that finally broke with a pair of points to the U.S. for an 18-16 score that gave them the gold with a 2-1 decision.
The U.S. duo pick up its seventh medal in Olympic qualification and mathematically met the Olympic qualification requirements during their first match, meeting the necessary 12 events in the qualification timeframe as well as a top-15 placement in the provisional Olympic rankings and a place as one of the top two American teams. The gold is their third of 2016, having started the calendar year with a win March 13 at the Grand Slam event in Rio de Janeiro, then picking up another April 24 at the Fuzhou Open. They also have two silvers and two bronzes during the Olympic qualification cycle.
Walsh Jennings is in search of her fourth consecutive Olympic championship in beach volleyball, having won the last three gold medals with former partner Misty May-Treanor. Walsh Jennings also finished fourth in indoor volleyball at the 2000 Olympic Games. Ross and then-partner Jennifer Kessy took the silver behind Walsh Jennings/May-Treanor at the London 2012 Olympic Games.