And then they were gone.

Kerri Walsh Jennings made her 2017 debut Monday at the FIVB Porec Major, a five-star event in Croatia, but she and new partner Nicole Branagh lost a country-quota match to Emily Day and Brittany Hochevar 21-16, 21-16.

As the FIVB reported Monday, “Day and Hochevar will compete Tuesday in the qualifier while Walsh Jennings/Branagh await the next Swatch Major Series stop next week in the Swiss Alps village of Gstaad.”

The qualifier starts Tuesday.

“We are extremely excited to FINALLY compete!,” Walsh Jennings told VBM in an email from Porec before the tournament began.

Walsh Jennings and partner April Ross took the bronze medal in last summer’s Rio Olympics, but they have gone their separate ways. Walsh Jennings has partnered with Nicole Branagh.

“I am very excited to be back out here again on the world tour,” Branagh said. “We have been training hard and are excited to start competing.” 

Branagh, like Walsh Jennings, is 38. They have played together both internationally and domestically at different times from 2008 to 2012. Branagh played in the 2008 Olympics with Elaine Youngs.

“We have many strengths and many things that we can and will improve upon,” said Walsh Jennings, the three-time Olympic gold medalist and FIVB world champion. “We are eager, excited and prepared for whatever comes our way. We will focus on that which we can control and always strive to live in our strengths and to flow with the circumstances.”

The pair has been training in Manhattan Beach.

“We are a team with an inherent chemistry, a solid foundation of respect and appreciation for each other and for the game,” Walsh Jennings said. “We also have a ton of rich experience to pull from, which is a beautiful, powerful thing.”

Branagh said she’s not concerned with being rusty.

“I have been focused on training and getting stronger and excited for the journey.  So I guess to combat it, I don’t think about it,” she said. “I have been playing and training before Kerri and I teamed up (a month ago), so it was just a matter of stepping everything up to the next level.”

American women’s pairs in the tournament include Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, Lane Carico and Lauren Fendrick, and, fresh off their AVP Seattle victory, Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat.

The list of American men includes Theo Brunner and Casey Patterson, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb and John Hyden and Ryan Doherty.

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