Sean Rosenthal seemed to cover the whole beach in the FIVB Grand Slam gold medal match in Long Beach on Saturday.
Diving digs. Tomahawk digs. Chicken-wing digs. Every time Pablo Herrera Allepuz and Adrian Gavira Collado of Spain were on the verge of swinging the momentum back their way, Rosenthal would hit the sand to keep a rally alive and he or partner Phil Dalhausser would finish with the kill.
“I’m just doing what I’ve been taught and learned over the years, being patient and not guessing,” Rosenthal said. “Read and react. Think fast.”
The fourth-seeded U.S. pairing defeated the seventh-seeded Spaniards, 21-15, 21-18, relying on the same stout defense that got them past No. 1-seeded Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson on Friday. Rosenthal and Dalhausser used an 11-4 run to come back and win the first game before rallying from 7-10 and 12-14 deficits in the second.
“He made every single play that he could,” Dalhausser said of his partner. “He basically won it single-handedly for us.”
And just as he did in their semifinal victory, Dalhausser finished the game at the service line. He launched a match-winning ace to the back-right corner Friday.
Saturday, he did it twice, for points 20 and 21.
After the match, Rosenthal joked he deserved the credit.
“I just told him we’re on the good side, two points away and you’re the best server in the world, so get us two points,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal and Dalhausser have now won three FIVB Grand Slams of the eight they’ve competed in since joining late last season. No other team has won more than once.
“Phil and I’s goal this year was to win more than anybody else on tour,” Rosenthal said, “and with how much parity there is right now, it’s going to be hard for another team to get a few more wins.”
Rosenthal and Dalhausser will play Gibb and Patterson again in the World Series Cup semifinals Sunday.
Kessy and Ross win
In a few months, Kerri Walsh Jennings will take Jennifer Kessy’s spot as April Ross’ partner.
But in the third game of Saturday’s World Series Cup semifinal in Long Beach, Kessy bested Walsh Jennings on three straight points, rebounding from the brink of elimination to a spot in the finals, as she and Ross battled back from a 9-2 deficit to defeat Walsh Jennings and Whitney Pavlik, 18-21, 21-17, 16-14.
First, Kessy slammed a kill past the elevating Walsh Jennings to deny a match point and tie the score at 14-14. Then she finished a long rally with a poke shot to the back line. And finally, with her own match point, Kessy cut a shot to the right of Walsh Jennings to finish the comeback.
“We let them back in,” Walsh Jennings said. “We should have beaten them.... That loss is going to be with me for a little while, every time I hit the gym.”
Ross and Kessy advance to face FIVB Grand Slam winners Talita Rocha and Taiana Lima of Brazil in the finals Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Ross said the inaugural World Series Cup opening match felt “Olympic-like.” In the 2012 London Olympics, Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor beat Ross and Kessy in the gold-medal match.
And Saturday, Ross and Kessy got a small slice of revenge.
Said Ross: “I told Jen afterward that’s why I love playing with her because I know that we can be down 9-2 and still have so much fight that I don’t doubt we can come back.”