RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Consecutive blocks from Kerri Walsh Jennings sealed the third set and the bronze medal for her and April Ross in their 17-21, 21-17, 15-9 victory against Brazil at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Ross is now a two-time Olympic medalist, winning silver in London 2012, and Walsh Jennings a four-time Olympic medalist, winning gold from 2004-12.
Ross and Walsh Jennings took one set to get rolling in the bronze medal match before turning around for spectacular play to top No. 1 Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes.
"It feels like a gold. Once you win a semifinal, the gold medal match is easy," said Walsh Jennings. "I mean no disrespect to winning a gold medal, it takes everything you have, but you're going to go home with a medal. The bronze medal match is the gnarly-est match I've ever played in my career because you go home with a beautiful medal or you get nothing."
Set one saw the USA go down 4-2 but battle to make it 7-all before slipping down 11-10 at a timeout. Brazil moved quickly to take the frame, 21-17.
"We were trying so hard," said Ross. "It was all about being together. Things didn't go our way in the first set. We just kept trying and trying and trying to get something to go our way. We figured out the point that did it was… we were down 13-14 and I got a hand on a dig, but it sprayed and Kerri chased it down into the banner. She got it up and we got it over for 14-14. That was just the little bit of mojo that we needed. We seriously had to fight for every point after that as well."
The second set saw momentum shift for Ross and Walsh Jennings. After falling behind 11-8, the U.S. pair rallied back within one, 13-12 before turning the tide and tying it 14-14 after a spectacular play by Walsh Jennings to save the ball at the edge of the playing field.
From that moment, Ross and Walsh Jennings led 16-14 and picked up speed to go on a 5-3 run to take the frame 21-17 and push for an all-out battle for bronze in a third set.
USA jumped ahead 2-1 in the third but like the preceding sequences of the match, the teams traded points, tying 4-4. For the 7-6 lead, Walsh Jennings went off at the net, defending the U.S. side in beast mode for the lead. Soon after, the duo reached double-digits first, 10-8, and on a 5-1 streak and back-to-back blocks by Walsh Jennings, the USA locked in bronze.
"I talked to myself all day today," Ross said. "I was in shock last night and it slowly got worse throughout the day. I spent a lot of time in bed with my eyes closed, visualizing, trying to get up for this match. It was tough, but once we got here, our coach Marcio (Sicoli) gave us the most amazing pep talk. He snapped us out of it and it was like determination from that point on. It even grew in that match. We realized that we were going to have to really fight for it, like we should, and we did, it was so gnarly. So, so gnarly."
With the bronze, Walsh Jennings and Ross finished the Olympics with a new team record of 151-27, 56-8 of that in 2016. The USA has 10 Olympic medals since beach volleyball was incepted in 1996, six gold, two silver, two bronze. Brazil will have 13 total after Thursday's men's final, but only two gold, seven silver, three bronze and a TBD gold/silver from the men's side.
Walsh Jennings is also now the most decorated Olympic beach athlete (male or female) in the sport.
DAY IN REVIEW
2016 Olympic Games | Aug. 17
- April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings won bronze on Aug. 17 after defeating Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes, 12-21, 21-17, 15-9 .The duo went 6-1 during the 2016 Olympics and Walsh Jennings earned her fourth Olympic medal, Ross her second.
Aug. 6, Gibb/Patterson def Qatar 21-16, 21-16
Aug. 6, Ross/Walsh Jennings def Australia 21-14, 21-13
Aug. 7, Fendrick/Sweat loss Poland 14-21, 21-13, 15-7
Aug. 7, Dalhausser/Lucena def Tunisia 21-7, 21-13
Aug. 8, Gibb/Patterson loss Austria 21-18, 21-18
Aug. 8, Ross/Walsh Jennings def China 21-16, 21-9
Aug. 9, Dalhausser/Lucena def Mexico 21-14, 21-17
Aug. 9, Fendrick/Sweat loss Brazil 21-16, 21-13
Aug. 10, Gibb/Patterson loss Spain 21-19, 16-21, 15-7
Aug. 10, Ross/Walsh Jennings def Switzerland 21-13, 22-24, 15-12
Aug. 11, Fendrick/Sweat loss Russia 21-18, 24-26, 15-13
Aug. 11, Dalhausser/Lucena def Italy 21-13, 17-21, 24-22
Aug. 12, Ross/Walsh Jennings def Italy 21-10, 21-16; Round of 16
Aug. 13, Dalhausser/Lucena def Austria 21-14, 21-15; Round of 16
Aug. 14, Ross/Walsh Jennings def Australia 21-14, 21-16; Quarterfinal
Aug. 15, Dalhausser/Lucena loss Brazil 21-14, 12-21, 15-9; Quarterfinal
Aug. 16, Ross/Walsh Jennings loss Brazil 22-20, 21-18; Semifinal
Aug. 17, Ross/Walsh Jennings def Brazil Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes 17-21, 21-17, 15-9; Bronze Medal
3rd April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings
t5th Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena
t19th Lauren Fendrick/Brooke Sweat
t19th Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson