On a rainy Thursday morning Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh take the court with hopes of becoming the first beach volleyball team, men or women, to repeat as gold medalists. The top seeded Chinese team of Tian Jia and the 6'3" Wang Jie were looking to derail those hopes.
Misty May-Treanor's hero, Jason Kidd, was in attendance despite the men's basketball team playing late the night before. May-Treanor grew up idolizing Kidd and has worn his No. 5 throughout her athletic career. In fact, her No. 5 has been retired by Long Beach State.
Going into the match, both teams were undefeated in Olympic play. They have previously met a total of seven times, with Misty and Kerri prevailing in five of those matches. All seven of the matches were decided by sweeps.
The eighth match would be no different, although this one would be no cake walk.
May-Treanor served to open the match, and Walsh got a block to give the Americans the 1-0 lead. The Chinese team tied it and then took a 2-1 lead.
After a 2-2 tie, Tian and Wang extended the lead to 5-3. Misty kept them in the game through the first set, while Kerri was struggling a little bit. They took an 8-6 lead until the Chinese tied it at 8-8.
Serving at 8-8, China served long to give the U.S. a 9-8 lead. Walsh came up with two big blocks in a row to extend the lead to 12-10.
At 13-12, Tian served two aces in a row, the second hitting the top of the net and trickling over, to regain the lead at 14-13.
May-Treanor and Walsh reclaimed the lead on a Kerri Walsh ace. After two more ties at 16-16 and 17-17, the Americans went up 20-17. It took two set points to finish the set with a final score of 21-18.
The second set was no easier. Even though Misty and Kerry got off to a quick 3-0 and then a 4-1 lead, Jia and Jie battled back and kept it close.
Down 8-7, Tian again served up two straight aces to give China the lead. The second ace again clipped the top of the net and fell straight down.
Two quick points gave the lead back to May-Treanor and Walsh. Then came the ties at 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, and 13-13.
A fifth ace for the Chinese team broke the tie and put China up 14-13.
More ties came at 14-14 and 15-15. The Americans then went on a 6-3 run to claim their second gold medals. This time needing only one set point to win the set, 21-18.
As she had done in Athens after winning the gold, Misty May-Treanor honored her mother, who passed away from cancer, by sprinkling some of her ashes on the court.
I don't think anyone can dispute their dominance now. I put them right there with Michael Phelps.
Both said they were going to start families now, so here are their final stats together (for a while at least):
- 18 straight tournament titles.
- Undefeated in two Olympics, without dropping a set in either.
- 108 straight matches, without losing a set.
- 69 straight international matches, without losing a set.
- They haven't lost in over a year.
- Misty has 103 career victories, most all-time for a woman
- Kerri is right behind her with 100.
- They are the all-time winningest team in Women's Beach Volleyball.
Congratulations, ladies. We are proud of you and hope to see you back on the courts soon.
Photo above by Wally Skalij / LAT