Randy Angel

Local beach volleyball stars Rosenthal, Walsh Jennings lead Americans to FIVB gold medals

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Kerri Walsh and April Ross celebrate their gold-medal winning performance at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball. Photo by Ray Vidal

Kerri Walsh and April Ross celebrate their gold-medal winning performance at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball. Photo by Ray Vidal

Manhattan Beach’s Kerri Walsh goes low to make a pass for partner April Ross. The duo won its sixth FIVB gold medal on Sunday. Photo by Ray Vidal

Manhattan Beach’s Kerri Walsh goes low to make a pass for partner April Ross. The duo won its sixth FIVB gold medal on Sunday. Photo by Ray Vidal

Playing in front of an emotionally-charged home crowd, the United States men’s and women’s teams captured gold at the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam, capping off the six-day ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball.

Fans flocked to watch Kerri Walsh Jennings, of Manhattan Beach, and partner April Ross as the top seeds cruised through the tournament culminating with a 21-17, 2-17 win over fifth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Barbara Seixas of Brazil.

“For Kerri it was working great,” Ross told the fans during a center-court celebration. “I had a little trouble out there playing defense, which is why we were blocking, and Kerri had some key digs. That team is so good, I’m sure we’re going to see them a bunch in later rounds and many tournaments to come. I’m just so proud of how we played together, that was the epitome of teamwork in that game.”

Walsh Jennings, who has her sights set on a fourth Olympic gold medal, thanked the fans.

“The crowd was our third man,” Walsh Jennings said, “Even when the bad tournaments happen it takes us one step closer to our ultimate goal, which is gold in Rio. We’ve wanted to win this tournament so bad here for ourselves, for our coach, for our family and friends. Even in the trying times it’s making us stronger. But today our heads are high, we’re super stoked and we took home the gold.”

Sean Rosenthal makes a dig during the championship match of the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam. Photo by Ray Vidal

Sean Rosenthal makes a dig during the championship match of the FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam. Photo by Ray Vidal

Walsh Jennings and Ross went 7-0 during the tournament, their only blemish coming with a 21-18 first-set loss to tenth-seeded Germany in the second round of competition. The Americans rebounded with 21-18, 17-15 games to win the match.

Walsh Jennings did not compete in last year’s inaugural FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam. She had recently given birth to her and husband Casey Jennings’ third child. Ross has replaced retired Misty May-Treanor as Walsh Jennings’ new partner. The new team showed why it is already among the world’s best.

Walsh Jennings recorded a game-high 21 kills, one block and eight digs with her only hitting error on the first match point attempt.

Ross recorded 11 kills, two blocks and six digs while having just one hitting error for the entire match.

The duo split the winning share of $70,000. This year’s record-setting $1 million in prize money was double the 2013 payout, making it the largest purse of any tournament ever held on American soil.

The FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam marked the 11th tournament for Walsh Jennings and Ross as a team. They have won six gold medals in six FIVB final four appearances during their partnership.

Beach volleyball legend Holly McPeak (with ball) led her team to a second straight 6-man title. Joining McPeak on Holly Angels/Flash were Keao Burdine, Emily Stockman, Amanda Dowdy, Katie Carter, Leah Hinkey, Sheila Shaw, Ana Paula Henkel, Chelsea Hayes, Christal Engle and Traci Weamer.

Beach volleyball legend Holly McPeak (with ball) led her team to a second straight 6-man title. Joining McPeak on Holly Angels/Flash were Keao Burdine, Emily Stockman, Amanda Dowdy, Katie Carter, Leah Hinkey, Sheila Shaw, Ana Paula Henkel, Chelsea Hayes, Christal Engle and Traci Weamer.

The win improved Walsh Jennings’ career record of victories to 118 and gave Ross her 36th championship.

Other United States teams to reach the main draw were the Hermosa Beach duo of Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Sweat, who reached the quarterfinals, and Emily Day (Torrance)/Summer Ross, who fell to the eventual bronze-medal winning team from Slovakia in the second round.

In men’s action, Redondo Beach’s Sean Rosenthal and partner Phil Dalhausser won their second straight Long Beach Grand Slam. The top seeds escaped with a 22-24, 21-18, 15-12 victory over second-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel of Poland.

The win gave the American’s their third gold medal on the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

A week earlier in The Netherlands, Fijalek and Prudel outlasted Dalhausser/Rosenthal 2-1 (21-18, 13-21 and 15-13). The win Sunday also evened the series between the two teams at 2-2.

Theo Brunner and Todd Rogers captured the bronze medal, posting their best-ever finish together on the FIVB World Tour. The 25th-seeded Americans defeated Alexander Walkenhorst and Stefan Windscheif of Germany 21-17, 18-21, 15-12. Also reaching the Main Draw were Americans Jake Gibb/Casey Patterson, John Hyden/Tri Bourne, Nick Lucena/Ryan Doherty, Casey Jennings/Avery Drost

The FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam was the third of four consecutive FIVB Grand Slam tournaments being held in four separate countries — Switzerland, The Netherlands, the United States and Austria.

The WSOBV also held youth and collegiate competition along with the popular 4-man and 6-man tournaments.

Beach volleyball legend Holly McPeak led her team to a second straight 6-man title. Joining McPeak on Holly Angels/Flash were Keao Burdine, Emily Stockman, Amanda Dowdy,  Katie Carter, Leah Hinkey, Sheila Shaw, Ana Paula Henkel, Chelsea Hayes, Christal Engle and Traci Weamer.

The squad defeated Team Smack (Nikki Jagd, Devon Sutherland, Kelli Tennant, Kristin Perrine, Tori Grafeman, Regan Hood, Ashley Engle, Alex Barsotti, Lindsay Stalzer, Taryn Robertson, McCall Miller and Keeley Abram) in the finals.

Wiggin Out Casebeer (Andy McGuire, Tim May, Cullen Irons, Nikki Jagd and Lindsay Stalzer) won the 4-man title, defeating Luke Walton’s team (Tyler Caldwell, Jony Hackett, Jen Abernathy and Walton) in the finals.

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