Kerri Walsh Jennings has three Olympic gold medals and three children. She’s 35 years old and has won 112 beach volleyball tournaments, tied for most in the history of the sport with her now-retired former partner Misty May-Treanor.
And still a loss makes Walsh Jennings angry enough to kick some sand and speak of her severe disappointment at dropping a semifinal match Sunday at the AVP Championship beach volleyball tournament in Huntington Beach.
“I’m not happy,” Walsh Jennings said. “We didn’t play well.”
The top-seeded Walsh Jennings and her new partner April Ross were knocked out of the tournament Sunday afternoon, 21-15, 21-17, by third-seeded Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar. It was only Walsh-Jennings and Ross’ second loss playing together this year. They are 18-2 as a team.
But after the high of the huge upset, Fendrick and Hochevar were beaten in the championship match by fourth-seeded Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat, 21-9, 15-21, 15-9.
The final point was a sizzling service ace down the line from the 5-foot-8 Sweat, who almost has to stand on her tiptoes to reach the shoulders of the 6-3 Fopma.
Fopma, who played college volleyball at Pepperdine and Cal State Northridge, and Sweat live in Costa Mesa and said they became partners because Sweat could play great defense and Fopma, with her height, was a top-notch blocker.
Sweat is a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University.
The top-seeded men’s team was also upset in the semifinals.
Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, who had been aiming for a fifth straight title this season, lost to the fourth-seeded team of Theodore Brunner and Nick Lucena, 19-21, 26-24, 15-13.
Brunner and Lucena, though, turned their upset into a tournament win.
They beat third-seeded Tri Bourne and his 41-year-old partner John Hyden, 23-21, 7-21, 15-13, to take the first-place check of $20,000. Hyden has been in the sport, indoors and on the beach, so long that he had played in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics on the U.S. indoor team that finished ninth.
So disappointed was Patterson after the loss that he went straight into the Pacific Ocean and didn’t come out to speak to the media. His partner, Gibb, said the loss was hard to take. “It’s difficult to process,” he said. “We’re disappointed because we had our chances.”
Indeed, Gibb and Patterson had four match points but could never convert.
Ross didn’t swim off into the Pacific but she did say, “I’m a little at a loss for words.” Walsh Jennings said she was disappointed in her team’s lack of aggressiveness.
“We started on cruise control a little,” she said. “And we didn’t change. It was just kind of an uncomfortable match.”
All of the teams Sunday had to quickly head off to the Los Angeles airport to catch a flight to China. That’s where the next tournament is, one that is on the FIVB international circuit and where teams earn points that help than eventually get Olympic berths.