US Olympic Volleyball Team 2012: What Is the Future After May-Treanor and Walsh?

James Reagan@@James__ReaganCorrespondent IIAugust 12, 2012

Aug 7, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Misty May-Treanor (USA) and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate after beating Chen Xue (CHN) and  Xi Zhang (CHN) in the women's semifinal match during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Horse Guards Parade. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings have had one of the most glorious Olympic runs ever. Their threepeat performance in London has assured that in terms of volleyball history, these two are in a class of their own. Winning 21-straight matches and every set but one makes it very hard to think of a way that these two could have performed better. 

In light of that, it's a little sad to think that they will not be teaming up again. May-Treanor has confirmed that this was her last Olympics and she will be retiring. Walsh Jennings now has the unenviable task of trying to find a new partner.

As unfair as it is to the legacy of both women, the question on the mind of many volleyball fans is, what's next? People always want to move onto the next big story; they want to see the next unbreakable world record fall to pieces. It's part of the reason why the very young Missy Franklin is already being called the next Michael Phelps.

For Olympic volleyball the answer to that question seems to be an easy one. There won't be another threepeat champion as dominant as May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings any time in the near future, if ever. The competition is just too good with even May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings having some close calls in London.

The immediate new favorite for U.S. women's beach volleyball is the formidable team of April Ross and Jen Kessy. In both of their sets against May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings, they only lost 21-16. Also, it was Ross and Kessy that downed the reigning world champions and gold-medal favorites Juliana and Larissa from Brazil.

Now both Ross and Kessy will be in their late 30's when the 2016 Olympics come around. Kessy in particular seems likely to retire soon as she is already 35 years old. Ross could still be playing though and depending on who her partner is, she could be a threat for a gold medal.

Another possible favorite is Walsh Jennings, who is looking for a new partner. It's definitely going to be hard for her to compete without May-Treanor, as the two women clearly know each other's game really well. Still May-Treanor alone is one of the greatest volleyball players of all time, so her chances of a fourpeat are actually pretty good.

It's most likely that the future of U.S. volleyball will come from youth. There were great player duos before May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings and there will be great duos after them.

For now the future of beach volleyball in the U.S. in a little uncertain. May-Treanor's retirement marks the end of an era that might never be realized by U.S. volleyballers again. Today though, U.S. volleyball fans can celebrate the tremendous run of these two women and what they have done for the world of volleyball.