Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross bested Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Nicole Laird 21-14, 21-13 to win their first match of the Rio Olympic beach volleyball tournament.
The duo took to the sands a half-hour past midnight, Rio time, and managed to build an early 4-point lead which only grew as the first set progressed. By the first timeout, the U.S. women led 14-7. Walsh Jennings and Ross took the first set 21-14.
Riding the momentum from the first set, Walsh Jenning and Ross took a three-point lead before the Australian women responded. Artacho del Solar and Laird managed to produce two aces in the second set, three overall. The U.S. women took the second and final set, winning 21-14, 21-13 in their first appearance at the Rio Games.
Former rivals, Walsh Jennings and Ross joined forces just moments after the London Gold Medal Match. Walsh Jennings and former partner Misty May-Treanor topped April Ross and Jen Kessy 21-16, 21-16 to win the gold medal. As they met to congratulate each other, Walsh Jennings whispered to Ross, “Let’s go win gold in Rio!”
With one match under their belt, the U.S. duo will play two more matches in the preliminary round. Walsh Jennings and Ross must finish as one of the top two teams of their preliminary pool to advance to the Round of 16.
Walsh Jennings and Ross will play China’s Wang/Yue on Aug. 8 at 11 p.m. ET.