Walsh Jennings drops out of FIVB Worlds, Emily Day to replace her

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Kerri Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh after a good day earlier this season at FIVB Gstaad/Swatch Major Series photo

After dislocating her previously surgically repaired right shoulder this past Saturday in the semifinals of FIVB Olsztyn in Poland, Kerri Walsh Jennings has withdrawn from the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships that begin Friday in Vienna.

Emily Day, fresh off her AVP Hermosa Beach victory, will now play with Nicole Branagh, replacing Walsh Jennings, the three-time Olympic champion and former world champion. They are in a pool with Brazil’s Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca, Germany’s Victoria Bieneck and Isabel Schneider) and Austrians Katharina Holzer and Teresa Strauss.

Day and Branagh have never competed together before, but they have practiced and trained together.

Walsh Jennings, the 38-year-old who has had five right-shoulder surgeries in her career, was injured with the scored tied 14-14 against Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan during the semifinals of the four-star event.

After a five-minute injury time-out, Walsh Jennings continued to play. The one time she had an offensive opportunity, on the the last point, she poked the ball with her left hand. Walsh Jennings and Branagh, also 38, then forfeited the next day’s bronze-medal match to Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa.

On her Facebook page, Walsh Jennings posted the following on Tuesday, pointing out that she was headed into MRI and CT scans:

“I’m scared, I’m a little achey and I’m most definitely sad to be sidelined for a bit. ABOVE ALL, though, I am beyond grateful for those & that which I love in my life & for those who & that which loves me right back.

Fear and pain and uncertainty are all part of it — I have always fully accepted this WITH the faith & (now) knowing, that what lies behind these things has all the potential in the world to be full of magic and growth and inspiration and dreams come true.

Love and hugs to all those sending me love and hugs

Love & great luck to Nicole Branagh & #EmilyDay as they take on the world in Vienna.”

Emily Day will replace Kerri Walsh Jennings at the FIVB World Championships/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Branagh chose Day as Walsh Jennings’ replacement.

“Emily Day is a fantastic player,” Branagh said via text. “She has continued to elevate her game every year. I think we will compliment each other well. She has a strong game and has been playing so well.

“I am thrilled to be able to partner with her for World Championships. Emily is a tough competitor and I am really excited for the opportunity to compete with her as we represent the USA this week.”

The 6-foot-1 Day, 29, and Brittany Hochevar won in Hermosa on Sunday, their second AVP victory this season. As a team, she and Hochevar missed the cut for the World Championship narrowly by 20 points.

Previously in the FIVB World Championship, Day, who played at Loyola Marymount, took 17th in 2013 with Summer Ross and 17th again in 2015 with Jen Kessy. Branagh had fifths with Elaine Youngs in 2007 and 2009 and took 17th with Angie Akers in 2011.

Day was actually at Los Angeles International Airport when we caught up with her by phone. She was preparing to board a direct flight to Vienna.

“We first heard of Kerri injuring her shoulder in the middle of AVP Hermosa and knowing that Brittany and I were the next team on the list to go, we were kind of on standby,” Day said.

“There was a lot of uncertainty at that point. Was Kerri going? Was Kerri not going? And I received a message from Nicole to call her about the potential to play with her on Saturday night.”

Since the athletic, high-jumping Day is a blocker and left-side player, she was the ideal replacement, but it was uncertain if the FIVB would allow Day to replace Walsh Jennings.

“It was all very up in the air as to what the rules were,” Day said. “Who could Nicole sub in, could she sub in anybody she wanted, did her replacement have to have a certain amount of points, or because the team is changed, does the next team in line get to go? I did not receive final confirmation on what our options were until it got straightened out Sunday night. In order for me to play with Nicole, Brittany and I had to withdraw as a team.

“It’s all very confusing, and that’s about all I understand.”

Once the FIVB paperwork had been submitted, Day could begin her preparations.

“On Monday I started to look at flights and luckily I found one on miles. With miles, you can change flights easily, because the paperwork hadn’t gone through yet. I didn’t know that it was official until I saw the press release this morning.”

Getting a last-minute flight to Vienna can be challenging, but Day got lucky.

“I scored. I got a direct flight to Vienna for only 30,000 miles, so it was really easy. I get in on Wednesday and we don’t play until Saturday.”

All to travel to Austria to compete with a new teammate.

“We’ve never played in a tournament together, but we’ve practiced together in the off-season, and we’ve trained a bunch with each other,” Day said.

“I’m excited about the opportunity. It’s obviously a very crazy turn of events with Kerri‘s shoulder. I wish her nothing but the best and a healthy recovery.”

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