Sports

Stanford grad Walsh Jennings returns to the winner's circle

 
Former Stanford All-American Kerri Walsh Jennings (left) and Brooke Sweat show off their gold medals from the Jinjiang 2019 4-Star Beach Volleyball tournament. Photo courtesy of FIVB.

Olympic gold medalist and former Stanford All-American Kerri Walsh Jennings and teammate Brooke Sweat earned the gold medal at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Jinjiang 2019, beating Australia's Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho, 21-17, 21-19, in the championship match Sunday.

Walsh Jennings, who teamed with April Ross to earn a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, earned her first FIVB World Tour gold medal in three years.

"It’s been so long, it just feels good, it feels good to play well as a team, it feels good to improve, it feels so good to finish on top," Walsh Jennings said. "The world is so good at volleyball so you have to be the best on that day to win and we played great and it was so fun."

Sweat, who left Florida Gulf Coast as it's all-time leader kills, won her first international gold. Her previous best finish was a third-place showing, with teammate Jennifer Fopma, at the 2013 Berlin Open.

"It’s my first gold," Sweat said. "To get it with Kerri in such a great tournament, we played some great teams. I’m so excited and looking forward to more."

The Americans dropped one set, in Sunday's 21-19, 19-21, 15-13 semifinal victory over Brazil's Agatha and Duda, during the tournament in China.

"The Aussies are so good, they’re so athletic and physical and they use their athleticism against you," Walsh Jennings told FIVB. "I feel like we had to play well, we made a couple of mistakes here and there and let them back in a couple of times, but when you keep the ball in play, you always have a chance, but they are so good. We’re getting better and it feels great."

Sweat and Walsh Jennings became teammates at the start of the 2018-19 season and have earned four medals. They wear awarded the bronze in Chetumal 3-Star and Sydney 3-Star and silver in the Kuala Lumpur 3-Star.

Walsh Jennings, who, at 40, finds age to be no barrier, won her 700th FIVB World Tour match in the quarterfinals. She is the oldest female player to earn an FIVB World Tour gold. The pair have their sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"We’re crawling our way up the ranks, not just with the world, but the US teams too," Sweat said. "We just want to keep going and as long as we keep getting better and better, we're not going to be worried about points. But it’s awesome now and we will get back to work again soon."

The U.S. teammates entered the tournament ranked 24th in the world and fifth among Americans. Their Australian counterparts were ranked seventh. The team of Ross and former Cardinal All-American Alix Klineman are ranked second.

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