Half of the eight U.S. teams that are in Xiamen, China, this week for an FIVB four-star tournament are stacked with Olympic experience.
Among those in the women’s field are partners five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings and 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh. Walsh Jennings is playing for the first time since July 2017, when she dislocated her shoulder.
“I feel like a newborn fawn coming back from the (shoulder and ankle) injuries,” said the 39-year-old Walsh Jennings. “My mindset is to go have fun and use it as a stepping stone.”
Other U.S. Olympians in the tournament are three-time Olympian Jake Gibb, with partner Taylor Crabb; two-time Olympian John Hyden with Theo Brunner; and two-time Olympic medalist April Ross with Alix Klineman.
The other U.S. women’s team in the main draw is that of Sara Hughes and Summer Ross.
“Summer is a ball of energy,” Hughes said. “She’s such a good blocker. She is tall and long and aggressive at the net.”
April Ross and Klineman are coming off a four-star win in the tour’s season opener.
The women’s teams of Kelly Claes and Brittany Hochevar, and Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman were in the qualifying tournament. Ryan Doherty and Billy Ketch Allen advanced out of the men’s qualifying tournament.