Let’s Hit the Beach

Beach Volleyball
Alix Klineman, left, and April Ross celebrate after defeating Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in the women’s finals match at the AVP Huntington Beach Open in Huntington Beach on Sunday, May 5, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Beach Volleyball is one of those sports that we always forget about until the Olympics. It is however a lot of fun to watch. If you haven’t seen it but like volleyball, the key difference is that there are only teams of two. Both players carry the responsibility of each position you would see with indoor volleyball. The same rules apply except for only having to win two sets instead of three. There is no coach on the sideline. The players have to make their own adjustments and call their own timeouts.

The End of An Era

One name we will not see is Kerri Walsh-Jennings. She failed to qualify after coming out of retirement. The now 36 year old decided to give it one more go but it wasn’t meant to be. For so many years, the team of Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor dominated the sport and brought home gold for the US. Misty retired after London.

April Ross, who ironically enough lost the gold medal game to the dynamic duo in London, served as the partner to Kerri Walsh-Jennings in Rio. They won Bronze. Walsh-Jennings lost her first Olympic match ever in 2016, and did not even lose a set until 2012. It’s very unfortunate that is probably the end for her, but ultimately the torch always has to be passed at some point.

Who is The US Sending?

The US will send four teams this time around. The team of April Ross and Alix Klineman are ranked the #2 duo in the world. They are 39 and 31 respectively, so the future is unclear for both of them. Luckily, there is some youth with the team of 25 year old Kelly Claes and 24 year old Sarah Sponcil. This is the youngest team in US history and Sponcil is the second youngest player to make her debut since Misty May-Treanor. While there is some young blood with the team of Claes and Sponcil, the men duos feature some vets who just keep coming back for more.

That’s right folks, Jake Gibb is back at age 45. He will be paired with 29 year old Taylor Crabb. Gibb is now the oldest beach volleyball Olympian in history, and the duo is ranked sixth in the world on the men’s side. Finally, a pair of 41 year olds round out the roster. Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena are back together. After being a team from 2003-2005, they regrouped in 2015 and have been together since then. That year they were also named team of the year.

It won’t be easy, but the US will be bringing some fire power and experience in pursuit of gold once again.

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