Team USA has earned more Olympic beach volleyball golds than any other country. No one else has stood on the men's and women's gold medal platforms at the same time.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are the only beach volleyball team ever to win back-to-back gold medals. In London, they stand an excellent chance to win gold again. Olympic newcomers Jennifer Kessy and April Ross are on track to join them on the podium, possibly in the silver medal spot.
To get past the semifinals, both teams must play well against tough competitors.
Here is how each American team stacks up in the semis and my prediction about how each will fare:
May-Treanor and Walsh face China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi in their semifinal match. Chen and Xi have already lost during the London Games, struggling through pool play to even earn a berth in the women's Round of 16. The two have played poorly so far in the Olympic tournament, a stunning disappointment after their prowess on the 2012 FIVB tour. Chen and Xi have a tough match ahead of them, and I question whether they can rise to the occasion.
The Americans have a long history of success on their side and come into the semifinals as the most widely accomplished women's volleyball team in history. They have beaten the Chinese duo before and should dominate them in this pairing as well. May-Treanor and Walsh are coming off a decisive victory against Italy in the quarterfinals. Expect them to ride that high all the way to the final round.
Jennifer Kessy and April Ross
Kessy and Ross face the toughest match of their lives to make the women's beach volleyball finals. The two must outplay the Brazilian powerhouses Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva. Silva and Franca entered the London Games ranked 1st internationally and bring a long history of victory with them.
The underdog duo has already beaten Silva and Franca in international play. In the 2009 FIVB World Championships, Kessy and Ross defeated the Brazilians in straight sets and won the tourney gold. They are only the second American team to do so. Expect them to do it again in London.
The American and Brazilian teams are evenly matched in height and experience and both will be fighting desperately to win. Kessy and Ross are making their Olympic debut in the shadows of compatriots May-Treanor and Walsh. Getting to the final round would finally put the two in the spotlight.
Kathryn Walsh played indoor volleyball in junior high and high school. Once in college on the California coast, she discovered beach volleyball. She has been an avid fan and occasional player since.