Kerri Walsh Jennings advances with new partner at Manhattan Beach Open
There were different ways of sending the message. But more often than not, Whitney Pavlik relied on a simple soundtrack on the sand to convey direction to partner Kerri Walsh Jennings:
“Line, line, line.”
Sounded … and delivered down the line.
It helped that the presence looming at the net is a towering figure in the sport of beach volleyball, Walsh Jennings, three-time Olympic gold medalist.
But Pavlik and Walsh Jennings, who are seeded second, are figuring things out in what has been a brief time together as partners, and Saturday was one of those ideal building-block days at the Manhattan Beach Open. They won three rounds, and the third served an especially useful purpose.
They defeated veterans Dianne DeNecochea and Brooke Niles, 21-12, 25-23, in 38 minutes. They lost the lead, fought off a game point and survived the brief pushback. It was the sort of thing that could help them Sunday, starting against No. 3 Jennifer Fopma and Brooke Sweat in the fourth round.
“It feels good. It feels like we have more composure,” Walsh Jennings said. “We’ve lost close matches where we had it and we gave it up — where we start overthinking and we lose our rhythm.
“Today we had a lead. We gave it up but we got our rhythm back quicker. We’re making quicker adjustment, and I think we’re trusting each other more in those key situations.”
That includes Pavlik becoming more vocal. She was much quieter in their first AVP event at Salt Lake City, in which they lost in the fourth round to eventual champions Jennifer Kessy and April Ross.
“Last week, being our first [AVP] tournament, I was definitely not as loud as I’ve been today,” Pavlik said. “In general, that makes a big difference too because it gets me out of, whatever.”
After the match, Walsh Jennings was holding her young daughter Scout and her two boys were being supervised by husband Casey Jennings. Earlier, Casey, who was back with former partner Matt Fuerbringer, won three matches on Saturday.
But the day did not start auspiciously for the Jennings Family.
“We had a rough morning with my boys,” Walsh Jennings said. “They woke up on the wrong side of the bed.... They’re just being 3 and 4 years old, just going at it. They’re such good kids 95% of the time.
“It was good. It kind of took my mind off my nerves. I was playing mommy, and then when I got on the court I could just breathe.”
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