RIO DE JANEIRO – It was the latest Kerri Walsh Jennings had ever played a volleyball match.
She and partner April Ross hit the sands of Copacabana’s beach volleyball stadium well after midnight, their start time pushed by the three-set preliminary battle between the Swiss and China. The crowd had thinned a bit, although it remained boisterous during the American duo’s swift defeat of Australia’s Mariafe Artacho Del Solar and Nicole Laird on Saturday night, 2-0 (21-14, 21-13).
“We’re night owls,” said Ross.
“It’s a party atmosphere. Especially under the lights,” said Walsh Jennings. “Hopefully people at home were watching. I think that’s why we have the late starts.”
This was Walsh Jennings’ first Olympic match with Ross as her partner, following the retirement of Misty May-Treanor since the London Games in 2012. She and May-Treanor teamed to win three beach volleyball gold medals, but the 37-year-old star is quick to profess her admiration for her new partner – verbally and physically.
She and Ross shared a lengthy hug before the match.
“I’ve been so excited all day. I need to share this energy. When I don’t have my kids or my husband around, and I force them to hug me at times … it’s such a shared journey. I love her and we’re connected. It’s like ‘give me a hug, we’re in this,’” said Walsh Jennings, clasping her hands with a clap, “we’re like this. And sometimes, when you’re like this, it’s nice to put a seal on the deal.’
The American tournament favorites are back at it at midnight on Monday night, with another preliminary match against the Chinese team of Fan Wang and Yuan Yue.
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS