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2016 Olympics: Pac-12 alumnae Walsh Jennings, Ross dig up new partnership

RIO DE JANEIRO — When the two USA women’s beach volleyball teams played against each other in London, April Ross and Jen Kessy came in second to Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor.

Now, with May-Treanor retired, the two former Pac-12 athletes Walsh Jennings and Ross have partnered up with plans to take gold in Rio.

“I think it was the next logical step,” Walsh Jennings said. “Both of our partners were retiring or taking a break and April was the best in the world and I was ready to surround myself with the best, so for me it was a no-brainer.”

The duo has proven to be successful so far, sweeping their matches against China and Australia in the preliminary rounds.

“It’s definitely different than London,” Ross said. “Different partner, different crew and a different mission, I think.”

Both athletes played indoor volleyball at Pac-12 schools. Ross went to USC, where she helped her school get to the NCAA Final Four in 2003 and Walsh Jennings attended Stanford on a volleyball scholarship.

The duo both played indoor and beach in and out of college before starting their Olympic careers.

At one point, Ross quit entirely before jumping back in eventually winning a silver in London.

“No doubt about it, playing in the Pac-12 prepared me for my athletic career,” Ross said.

While their college days may be long behind them, Ross will continue to get a taste of of Pac-12 volleyball as her husband Brad Keenan accepted a position in May to coach the ASU’s women’s beach volleyball team.

Despite finishing behind her now partner in London, Ross and Walsh Jennings have formed a tight bond playing for their country.

“It’s why we’re here we want to represent Team USA,” Ross said. “There are so many great and amazing things about our country, and it’s an honor.”

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