Olympics 2012: Jen Kessy and April Ross Will Become World's Best at London Games
Jen Kessy and April Ross aren't exactly household names for the casual Olympic fan, but they will be soon.
The American beach volleyball duo has broken out at the 2012 London Games, showcasing themselves as one of the world's best volleyball teams.
Both Kessy and Ross attended the University of Southern California (not at the same time). They have forged a relationship akin to that of fellow Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
The pair of six-foot bombshells will build on an impressive 2011 season and put an exclamation point on 2012 by competing for their first Olympic gold medal.
Jen Kessy and April Ross know they have exactly what it takes to win a major international beach volleyball tournament.
They did exactly that in the 2009 Swatch FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stavanger, Norway. The pair came in as the tournament's No. 1 seed, and they powered through 23 other teams.
The 2009 season was the best the two have seen. Kessy and Ross won four AVP titles and two FIVB titles, running their total to seven in a single year.
They finished the season as the third-ranked team in the entire world.
Chemistry is one of the huge advantages that American Olympic legends Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have had over the competition, but Jen Kessy and April Ross have some chemistry of their own.
Kessy and Ross have been playing alongside one another since 2007. While May-Treanor and Walsh decided to take a break from each other a few years ago, Kessy and Ross haven't relented in their effort to win Olympic gold.
The two have played well in London in the past, which won't hurt their chances at Olympic glory this summer. When a test event was held back in August 2011, Kessy and Ross finished in second—ahead of 22 other teams—after losing in the final.
Kessy had this to say regarding the dynamic of their team (via The Orange County Register's Mark Whicker):
On the beach you have to do everything, pass, set, play defense, be fast to run balls down, jump in the sand. And if you look at the elite teams on the beach, they're usually blocker/defense combos. We can both do everything. Some days I'm a terrible defender, so let me run up to the net. I don't think everybody can do that.
In addition to chemistry, their versatility will help propel the two to dominance in London.
The Law of Total Probability
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have won gold medals in the last two Olympic Games. The duo became the first team to accomplish that feat since the sport has been played in the Olympics.
For all athletes, there comes a time when your luck runs out. It's not just that, but it's nearly impossible for a team of any kind to sustain a 12-year period of excellence against the best opponents in the world.
May-Treanor and Walsh are undoubtedly two of the best in the world, but for them to win three straight Olympic gold medals, all the stars would have to align.
They haven't exactly been at their best, either, as you'll see on the next slide.
They Have Played Well Against May-Treanor and Walsh in the Past
When Jen Kessy and April Ross played against Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh at the 2011 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Rome, they put on a show.
Unfortunately, the USC alumni didn't get the result they wanted. Kessy and Ross lost to May-Treanor and Walsh in the quarterfinals 2-1, but they gave their opponents a run for their money.
Kessy and Ross lost 21-18, 18-21, 15-10, but they showed the world that they can hang with their fellow Americans.
May-Treanor and Walsh will be one of the toughest teams to beat in London, but they showed they aren't invincible in that same tournament. The pair lost to Brazilians Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta, who are currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
Physical Advantages over Most Other Teams
Jen Kessy and April Ross are ranked No. 4 in the world behind Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, Zhang Xi and Xue Chen and Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta.
Franca and Felisberta are 5'9" and 5'10", respectively. May-Treanor and Walsh are 5'9" and 6'1".
Kessy and Ross are 6'0'' and 6'1''. They have the clear-cut size advantage over two of the three teams ahead of them in the rankings. Height is undoubtedly one of the greatest advantages that a beach volleyball player can be afforded, as it helps mostly in terms of close net play and spiking.
The only team ranked higher than Kessy and Ross that has a physical advantage over the duo is Zhang Xi (6'0'') and Xue Chen (6'3").
The American six-footers aren't likely to have to deal with all three teams during the competition. If they get a draw that allows them to avoid Xi and Chen until the latter stages of the tournament, they'll have no problem making plenty of noise.
How They're Doing
The beach volleyball duo of Jen Kessy and April Ross has been overshadowed by the experience and accolades bestowed upon Team USA’s darlings Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
With huge wins over Switzerland and the Czech Republic, the tandem of Kessy and Ross has yet to drop a set in Olympics competition. Now they are one victory away from playing for a gold medal.
Against teammates May-Treanor and Walsh, though.
If Kessy and Ross can shock the world and upset the No. 1 seeded Brazilian pair of Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Silva, their likely meeting with another Team USA representative would be amazing for the sport of beach volleyball in the United States.
We’ll just have to wait until Tuesday, August 7 at 1 p.m. ET to see if Ross and Kessy can make the finals!