RIO DE JANEIRO – Kerri Walsh Jennings loves weird volleyball.
She loves those defensive plays that are spontaneous and instinctual, the ones that make up for a lack of structure with sheer ingenuity.
Like, for example, when the American beach volleyball star kept a point alive by playing the ball on the other side of the net on Sunday night.
“That was so rad!” said April Ross, who teamed with Walsh Jennings to defeat Australia’s Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy, 2-0, earning a semifinals berth.
In the first set, the Americans were down 10-9. Bawden went up for a spike but Ross dug it for the U.S. The ball traveled high to the right and over the net, looking like it was going to sail out of bounds for an Aussie point.
Then Walsh Jennings took off after it.
Under the net.
“You know, it was a great dig. There was plenty of time,” she said. “When April gives me a chance to give her a set, I’m going to go after it.”
Walsh Jennings ran under the net to the left of the Australian players, in out of bounds territory. She bumped the ball back over the net to Ross, who sent it back over to the Australians. They set up for a spike, but Bawden’s attempt was blocked by Walsh – who had scurried back to her position – for an incredible point.
“It wasn’t really that hard. It was just a unique play that doesn’t happen that often, but it was fun,” Walsh Jennings said.
In beach volleyball, players can cross the center line below the net after a ball is legally hit, and as long as they don’t interfere with an opponent’s attempt at hitting it.
On a night Walsh Jennings had a game-high four blocks, none came close to this weird one. But then she loves making the weird ones.
“Defense is my favorite part of the game. Being weird and getting creative is my favorite, so that was really fun,” she said.
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