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Beach Volleyball: Ross, Kessy prevail in wild semi

Explosive crowd energy helps fuel third-set rally to top Pavlik, Walsh Jennings in World Series Cup.

July 27, 2013|By Barry Faulkner
(Holly Stein )

LONG BEACH — It was somehow fitting that the team with the most history behind it came out on top in the inaugural final of the World Series Cup as part of the World Series of Beach Volleyball on Saturday at Marine Green Park.

This was, after all, a celebration of beach volleyball's past as much as a postcard to its potential future, with the return of the refurbished Assn. of Volleyball Professionals domestic tour ready to kick off a schedule next week that includes six events in seven weeks.

April Ross and Jennifer Kessy, the 2012 Olympic silver medalists in their seventh and final season together, rallied to defeat Kerri Walsh Jennings and Whitney Pavlik, 18-21, 21-17, 16-14, in front of a glistening and grooving Long Beach crowd that drew comparisons to the communal party days of the old AVP that ostensibly ended in 2010.

"That was intense," said Ross, a Costa Mesa resident and Newport Harbor High product who along with Kessy overcame a 9-2 deficit in the decisive third set. "That's probably in the [United] States, 100 percent the biggest semifinal I've ever played, just in terms of the crowd and how fired up [event public address announcer Chris "Geeter" McGee] was. And, the fact that that was the [Americans'] chance to get into the final. It felt like it was really big, and it felt a little Olympic-like and the stakes were high."

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Ross, who will eventually team with Walsh Jennings for the final two Federation Internationale de Volleyball and AVP events later this summer, collected 15 kills, three stuff blocks and three ace serves. Her final kill capped a 9-2 run that allowed her team to pull even at 11-11.

Walsh Jennings and Pavlik, a former UC Irvine and Orange County Volleyball Club standout, playing together for the first time, pulled ahead, 12-11 and 13-12, thanks to two Pavlik kills. They also led, 14-13, on a the last of Walsh Jennings' 12 kills, before three Kessy kills closed out the improbable victory.

"I told Jen afterward that that's why I love playing with her, because I know that we can be down, 9-2, and we still can have so much fight that I don't doubt that we can come back," Ross said. "It's just a matter of calming down and figuring out what the right thing to do is."

In this instance, the thing to do was simply siding out.

"Once we sided out, we scored seven [of eight points]," said Kessy, who posted 20 kills, two blocks and one ace to overcome nine hitting errors. "It was just ugly on our side."

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