Walsh Jennings, Ross meet Leslie Jones, continue midnight mastery

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RIO DE JANEIRO — When the clock strikes midnight in Rio, it usually means Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross are already on their way to victory.

The top-seeded U.S. beach volleyball duo won their third midnight match of the tournament, this time in the Round of 16, with a 2-0 (21-10, 21-16) victory over Marta Menegatti and Laura Giombini of Italy Friday night.

The only match that gave the 4-0 team any trouble was the one that started at 9 p.m. against Switzerland, in which Walsh Jennings lost only the second set of her Olympic career. With the victory over Italy, her winning steak now stands at 25 matches.

But a bump in the road in preliminaries was a good time to self-evaluate before the elimination rounds, said Ross.

[Related: Americans win wild rally in men’s volleyball upset over Brazil]

“I definitely worked with our coaches, and I want to keep doing that,” she said. “I saw I was coming in early to hit the ball, so that was the main thing I wanted to fix tonight. I feel like I did that. Had much better vision.”


The duo made short work of an Italian team that was newly formed before the Olympics, pairing two defensive players. Ross said they played like they had “nothing to lose,” challenging the Americans in the second set. But a 9-3 run of points basically put the set and the match out of reach.

Then came the hard part for the Americans: post-adrenaline-rush sleep.

“Three-thirty is my goal,” Ross said.

“I’m averaging five [o’clock],” Walsh Jennings said.

“Mainly because of Leslie Jones,” Ross said.

Walsh Jennings has been an unabashed fan of the SNL comedian’s Twitter feed, which features a series of short videos of Olympic footage with Jones’ own unfiltered play-by-play. They proved so popular that NBC flew her down to Rio, and she was in attendance on Friday night …

… where she met her volleyball heroes:

Walsh Jennings said the team saw her when they ran through the tunnel onto the court. “It means a lot that she’s here supporting us,” she said.

Walsh Jennings and Ross advance to the quarterfinals on Sunday. The gold medal match, should they advance to play in it, is Aug, 17.

[Related: Model turned boxer one victory away from an Olympic medal]

At midnight.

“We knew that coming in. We knew we wanted to play in the midnight matches because that’s when the later rounds are held,” Walsh Jennings said. “We came here with the mindset that, ‘Put us at six in the morning, put us at midnight, we’re going to rock.’”

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Listen to Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski podcast from Rio on GRANDSTANDING, featuring U.S. swimming legend Summer Sanders on Michael Phelps, IOC doping and Donald Trump:

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