Beach Volleyball: Ross lacking comfort in Long Beach

LONG BEACH — The beach volleyball community is still abuzz about the recent announcement that April Ross would replace Misty May-Treanor as the next partner for three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings.

But though Ross played a Federation International de Volleyball Grand Slam event with Walsh-Jennings earlier this month in Switzerland (they were eliminated in the round of 16), Ross remains linked with Jennifer Kessy until later this season, when she will team with Walsh Jennings for the final two Assn. of Volleyball Professionals events, as well as the last two FIVB Grand Slam events.

But the 2012 Olympic silver medalists, seeded No. 1 in the World Series of Beach Volleyball FIVB Grand Slam event at Marina Green Park, created some buzz of their own by losing their second pool-play match on Tuesday.

"It was surprising, but after the way we played, it's not surprising," Ross said of the 21-19, 21-15 loss to No. 11-seeded Swiss team of Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre.

Ross and Kessy, who won their pool-play opener, 21-10, 21-12, over a team from Poland, remain alive in the double-elimination format that continues with pool play Wednesday morning. The championship draw also begins Wednesday and the women's semifinals and final are scheduled for Friday.

Ross, a Costa Mesa resident and former Newport Harbor High indoor standout, said the hard sand, the strong play by the Swiss duo, and a month since she last played in a tournament with Kessy contributed to Tuesday's upset.

"Just taking two tournaments off can affect things for sure, " Ross said, who came in as the leading server in FIVB events, but missed five serves without an ace in Tuesday's setback. "It's not like Jen did anything wrong, but I felt a little out of sync, like not normal. She was getting in my way and I was getting in her way. It did not feel good."

Ross said the impending change in partners has been a distraction, but the layoff was more of a factor in her sub-par play with Kessy.

"It's a constant thing," Ross said of the on-court dynamic that partners share. "It's a monster. You've got to keep working on it and keep it working for you, or else. I've been playing volleyball since I was 13 years old and I'm 31 now. But I still feel the need to get out and practice every day, because volleyball is such a skill-based sport. You've got to keep it sharp or else you are going to lose.

"I don't think it shook our confidence, but it showed us we are not playing at the level we need to play here," Ross said. "I think we are just disappointed in ourselves."

Ross said she was further irked that the loss came so close to home.

"It feels weird to lose [it was the first pool-play defeat this season for Ross and Kessy], because I wanted to come in and just dominate," Ross said. "I was really excited to have this [event] here. I think [playing locally] is awesome, but it would suck if we don't do well.

"It's gotten to the point where I don't get really sad when I lose," Ross said. "It's just that I get disappointed in myself and I just know that I'm better than that. So, it's a personal thing for me. I'm probably going to dwell on it a little bit tonight and just make sure I'm better prepared for [Wednesday] and I bring a little bit more fire, for sure."

Also in women's pool play, UC Irvine product Whitney Pavlik split a pair of matches with emergency partner Annett Davis. Pavlik and Davis, seeded No. 27, upset No. 6-seeded Liliana Fernandez and Else Basquerizo of Spain, 21-12, 21-17, in their first pool-play match.

In the afternoon, Pavlik and Davis, who is about two months away from her 40th birthday, flirted with another upset before falling, 19-21, 21-18, 15-13, to No. 11-seeded Louise Bawden and Taliqua Clancy from Australia.

Pavlik had been scheduled to play with Walsh Jennings in the Grand Slam event, but Walsh Jennings is limited by an abdominal strain. Pavlik and Walsh Jennings are scheduled to play together in the World Series Cup event to be contested Saturday and Sunday.

In the only round of men's pool play, the top-seeded team of Costa Mesa resident Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson of Huntington Beach swept the Italian pair of Andrea Tomatis and Alex Ranghieri, 21-17, 21-15.

In addition, the No. 7-seeded duo of Corona del Mar resident Sean Rosenthal and Phil Dalhausser got past the Swiss pairing of Andreas and Roman Sutter, 24-22, 21-18.

Men's pool play continues Wednesday, heading toward the semifinals and final on Saturday.

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