Kessy and Ross' Cinderella story started in 2008 when they barely missed a berth to represent the United States at the Beijing Games. Even though the two were ranked seventh in the world at the time, there were still two American teams above them.
The London Games may see the underdog duo go from left out to legend. They face two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings in the women's beach volleyball gold medal match Aug. 8.
Both teams are hungry to win. Treanor and Walsh are looking for the unprecedented three-peat. Kessy and Ross want to serve them the ultimate upset.
For the underdogs' Cinderella story to have a happy ending, they must do three things:
Limit service errors
A service error automatically gives a point to the other team. In their last three games, Kessy and Ross have struggled from the end line. They suffered seven service errors in each match against Brazil, Chez Republic, and Sweden. The two played well enough to overcome those errors and win, but that won't be the case against Treanor and Walsh.
Treanor and Walsh have only given up seven service errors in their last three games combined. If they continue to serve nearly three times as many side outs, Kessy and Ross are in real trouble. They'll need to tighten up that part of their game quickly if they want to win.
Reduce playing errors overall
Kessy and Ross have made nearly twice as many errors on the court than any of their last three opponents. Like serving errors, those are points that they practically handed to the other team. Treanor and Walsh are on the opposite end of that ratio, making only half as many errors on average as their last three opponents.
Again, it comes down to points earned versus points given away. If Kessy and Ross make as many errors on the court against Treanor and Walsh, they won't win. The two need to communicate better with each other and play as error-free as possible to beat the reigning champions.
Take an early lead
In their semifinal match, Brazil only won against Kessy and Ross, when they had outscored them from the start. In the first and final sets, the Americans got a few points ahead in the beginning of the set, and kept that points gap throughout the match. They'll need to continue that trend against Treanor and Walsh to go for gold.
Beach volleyball history has been made no matter who wins. In sweeping the semis, the American women have finally done what the U.S. men did in 1996. If Treanor and Walsh come out on top, they will be the only women's team in the world to win three Olympic gold medals together. Should Kessy and Ross score an upset, it will be the end of an era as the two go from passed-over to the top of the podium.
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.