On Wednesday, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh will play for their third consecutive Olympic gold medals. The dominant duo will face fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross—assuring a gold and silver medal for the United States.
May-Treanor and Walsh defeated the younger, taller, higher-ranked Chinese team in straight sets 22-20, 22-20. Shortly after, Kessy and Ross upset the No. 1-ranked Brazilians in comeback fashion 15-21, 21-19, 15-12—displaying their terrific perseverance.
While Kessy and Ross won't go down easy—just go as the Brazilians—expect May-Treanor and Walsh to achieve their three-peat and put an emphatic stamp on their tremendous Olympic careers—and here's why.
After watching nearly every match of women's beach volleyball in these Olympics, it's easy to see that May-Treanor and Walsh are the best defensive team—and if my assessment isn't enough for you, just take a look at the numbers.
As a duo, May-Treanor and Walsh lead all teams in blocks with 22 and digs with 134 out of 265 attempted. Individually, Walsh is the tournament leader in blocks with 21, while May-Treanor has been digging everything that comes her way and has tallied a tournament-leading 92 digs thus far.
While May-Treanor's hustle and excellent read-and-react skills have saved a lot of points for the duo, Walsh's blocks have shifted the momentum in their favor on numerous occasions—most recently against China. Time and time again, it was Walsh roofing one of the Chinese attacks at the net and forcing them to shoot the ball rather than spike it down.
If she's not blocking attacks that result in points, she's limiting her opponent's offense to roll shots—which May-Treanor can almost always get to and pass effectively. Therefore, their outstanding defense is what sets up their efficient offense.
At 6'3'' and 33 years old, Walsh is still, hands-down, the best blocker in the world and has shown why so far in London.
During yesterday's match, NBC's sideline reporter asked the duo's coach what he would tell them if he could talk to them. The coach responded with something along the lines of, "I would tell them to run the quick offense more."
What he means is not only a literally quicker attack, but he also means swinging after just one pass. When such a dominant hitter as Walsh is on your team, the other player is bound to get more hitting opportunities—teams simply don't serve Walsh. Therefore, you need to find ways to get kills.
One weapon May-Treanor and Walsh often use is what's called hitting on two. On an easy serve sent May-Treanor's way, she will pass it to the net as if she's setting her partner—allowing Walsh to get in-system kills.
While May-Treanor will receive most of the attacks simply because she will be served more than Walsh, don't be surprised when you see Walsh spiking balls down on their second hit.
Obviously, the reigning two-time Olympic gold medalists have been here before. And that experience will help them in another gold on Wednesday. May-Treanor and Walsh are 20-0 in Olympic matches since the 2004 Athens Games and possess more gold medals—two—than they do lost sets—one.
You can analyze the matchup all you want, but that number speaks for itself—20-0, undefeated. They both know exactly what it takes to win at the Olympics and simply don't lose. Even after they lost their first set ever to Austria, they came back in the next set and absolutely dominated, winning 21-8.
Whether it's poking a ball over on two or perfectly playing an opponent's swing, May-Treanor and Walsh have all the tricks—expect to see some later tonight.
Whichever team wins tonight, one thing is for sure—U.S. is ending the night with a gold and silver in women's beach volleyball.