Kerri Walsh Jennings played her first FIVB beach volleyball tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland, way back in 2001. She’s played 15 tournaments since then in the picturesque city in the Alps, winning six gold medals, a bronze, and a silver.
On the 20th anniversary of the tournament, the Gstaad magic continued for Walsh Jennings and her partner Brooke Sweat on Wednesday, as they won their first pool-play match 21-15, 21-16 over No. 26 seeded Xinxin Wang and Chen Xue of China, who came through the qualifier.
“They’re so nice to me here,” Walsh Jennings said. “There’s genuine love and it goes both ways and when you show up at certain places, they’re going to love you or hate you so I’m glad I’m in love here.”
The victory means even more for the American pair after their disappointing 17th-place finish at last week’s FIVB World Championships in Hamburg, Germany.
The other two USA women’s teams also won their first pool-play matches. World Championships silver medalists April Ross and Alix Klineman needed three sets (18-21, 22-20, 15-4) to beat 30th-seeded Katarzyna Kociolek and Kinga Wojtasik of Poland. Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, who won the AVP Seattle Open last month, defeated Russia’s Ekaterina Birlova and Evgeniya Ukolova 21-15, 21-16 in Pool F.
The reigning Gstaad women’s gold medalist and recently crowned 2019 World Champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada lost the first set of their pool play match versus 31st-seeded Laura Caluori/Dunja Gerson of Switzerland but came back with a vengeance in the second set and finished in three with a 17-21, 21-7, 15-10 final scoreline.
“Today, we got out to a very slow start,” Humana-Paredes said. “I think we were both more emotionally drained from Hamburg than either of us realized, and it took some time to get rolling again. We knew that the first match would be a grind after everything that has happened recently, so we are glad to put that one behind us and continue with the tournament.”
On the men’s side, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena went 2-0 on Wednesday, defeating the two other American pairs in Pool D to win the pool and earn a bye into the second round of Thursday’s elimination action. First, they swept Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger, who entered the main draw through the qualifier, 21-10, 21-13. Then, later in the day, Dalhausser and Lucena made quick work of Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb, 21-16, 21-19.
Gibb and Crabb finished pool play with a 1-1 record after defeating Latvia’s Matins Plavins and Edgars Tocs 21-19, 20-22, 15-11. Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson will play the last Pool D match on Thursday morning versus Plavins and Tocs to determine which team will be eliminated.
Trevor Crabb and Tri Bourne, the only American men’s team lucky enough not to be in Pool D, lost their Gstaad opener to Austria’s Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst 21-18, 21-13, a disappointing start after the duo took fourth at the World Championships, the best finish of any American men’s team. On Thursday, they’ll finish off pool play with a match versus Grant O’Gorman and Ben Saxton of Canada.
In other notable men’s results, Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy of Russia, the new World Champions, ended a nine-match win streak with a loss to Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho 14-21, 22-20, 15-12, and No. 23-seeded Canadians Sam Schachter and Sam Pedlow upset No. 10 seed Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi of Italy and No. 7 seed Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera of Spain to win Pool G.