Professional beach volleyball players Kerri Walsh Jennings and Phil Dalhausser of Manhattan Beach won gold and silver medals respectively at the Federation Internationale de Volleyball’s Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball Grand Slam event in Long Beach last Sunday.
In the final regular season tour stop for the FIVB, the former Olympic champions rebounded nicely from Rio de Jainero, Brazil where both came up short on goals of winning another gold medal.
In Brazil, Walsh Jennings won a bronze medal and in Long Beach she won gold. Dalhausser, who finished fifth in Brazil, was back in the final and won silver.
“It was a really great tournament,” Walsh Jennings said. “We won ugly the first couple matches. This is the first time it felt kind of pretty (was in the finals). It was all in sync, in rhythm. They’re a very good team so I know we were really focused and on point on our side. It was great.”
The pair beat Spain’s Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo, who were seeded No. 7, in two sets.
Walsh Jennings partner April Ross of Costa Mesa talked about moving on from Rio.
“There was sting in Rio, but the way that we rebounded, that’s what I remembered and that’s what sits with me,” Ross said. “I only had good feelings coming home and coming into this event.”
“We earned the bronze,” Walsh Jennings said. “I’m going to take that with pride. I’m always shooting for gold. You just got to make the most of what you got and I feel so proud to be wearing gold today because it wasn’t easy. Coming back from Rio—that’s a lot. It’s a lot that we just went through.”
For the bronze medalists, nothing has changed no matter where they are playing.
“We want to be on top of the podium,” Ross said.
It was the 133 victory of Walsh Jennings pro career, 55 of them in FIVB. She split $57,000 in Long Beach adding to her career money total which exceeds $2.5 million.
For Dalhausser, it was another successful Long Beach week where he has played in the finals every year. He won the tournament with Sean Rosenthal the first two years and lost in the finals last year and this year.
Dalhausser and teammate Nick Lucena of Davie, Fla. were seeded No.1 but ran into the No. 3 seeded Brazilian team with 6-feet-11 Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg.
Goncalves played superb as the Brazilians overcame a 17-14 deficit in the first set and went on to a 7-2 run to take the early momentum and the set 21-19.
“They stole that first set from us which is kind of disappointing because then maybe we win the match,” Dalhausser said.
Dalhausser and Lucena held on to take set two 21-17, but the Brazilians were in control in the third set winning 15-9 to take the match.
“You made it so far so you want to win the tournament,” Dalhausser said. “I guess it just wasn’t in the cards.”
Goncalves was a force at the net.
“His blocking was really good today,” said Dalhausser, who was seeking his 85th pro title. He will split $43,000 for the second place finish. He has won more than $2.1 million in his career.
“They earned it,” Dalhausser said. “They played great.”
“My hats off to them, they set it up real well,” Lucena said.
For the Brazilians, it was a good comeback with Solberg not feeling well.
“We’re happy to see how this team can work even in tough situations,” Solberg said.
“We’re so grateful,” Walsh Jennings said. “Asics, for them to step up and to have this huge event, it’s the best event hands down in America and it’s one of the best events in the world in beach volleyball and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
It has an international feel to it.
“It’s a different atmosphere than anywhere else in the world,” Walsh Jennings said. “It’s great to have that home in the U.S.A. for us.”
There are just two tournaments left, one on each tour. The AVP will be in Chicago and the FIVB will finish in Toronto with the top teams on its tour.
Walsh Jennings will have to make some decisions once the season comes to a conclusion for the No. 2 money team and No. 3 in points.
One thing is for sure, her partner Ross is in her prime.
“This has been my best season on the beach ever,” Ross said. “In the regular season we made the semifinals every single tournament, which I’ve never done before. We (finished in the top three) every single time, except for one. So it’s been an amazing, amazing season.”
“After this season, I’ll sit back and I’ll think about the last two and a half years together because April is so special and we’ve learned and just grown up so much together,” said Walsh Jennings, who is women’s beach volleyball’s winningest player of all-time. “There’s a lot to reflect on.”
Dalhausser and Lucena are No.2 in points and No. 3 in money earned. They have won four tournaments, including one major event.
“We had a good season,” said Dalhausser, who hopes to cash in again on one or two of the last events.