Kerri Walsh Jennings’ quest for a fourth gold medal is over.
Walsh Jennings and partner April Ross fell to Agatha and Barbara of Brazil in a match played just after midnight on Wednesday morning, losing in straight sets at the beach volleyball stadium on Copacabana Beach.
A loud and largely pro-Brazilian crowd packed the stands for the midnight match, in a showdown that everyone in the beach volleyball world had been waiting for.
Walsh Jennings had never lost an Olympic beach volleyball match before Tuesday night. Afterwards, she took on much of the blame, and regretted an opportunity lost.
“We just never gave ourselves breathing room,” the three-time gold medalist said. “We could squash that team, and we have in the past. I say that with so much respect, because they are very good. Tonight, they rose to the occasion. I certainly did not, and there’s no excuse for it.”
The atmosphere was particularly charged after the more veteran Brazil beach volleyball team Larissa and Talita lost earlier in the day in the other semifinal. Couple that with the woman’s soccer team falling to Sweden in their semifinal and it felt as if the entire nation’s hopes were riding with Agatha and Barbara. This was their team, playing in their stadium, right on Copacabana Beach, which many Brazilians consider the spiritual home of beach volleyball.
The match began as a contrast in styles, with Brazil showing off its creativity and the Americans relying on the power of Walsh Jennings to win points. In an interesting strategy, the Brazilians repeatedly targeted Walsh Jennings with serves early in the first. While at first Walsh Jennings seemed uncomfortable, she eventually settled in, which set her up for repeated spikes.
The Brazilians stuck with it, though, which paid dividends with a big ace to tie the set at 18-18. After both teams traded point after point, the set was finally decided on a serve down the middle which Walsh Jennings and Ross both thought would sail out of bounds. It dropped on the line, and the Brazilians had a 1-0 lead.
“You gotta pass the ball to win matches. I don’t know how many aces they got on me in that game. Four, maybe? That’s unacceptable and inexcusable,” said Walsh Jennings.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Nate Scott