Fort Lauderdale, USA, February 8, 2017 - Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross unveiled a new look as they opened their 2017 FIVB World Tour campaign at the Fort Lauderdale Major on Wednesday.
They switched sides for the first time in their partnership and looked nothing but comfortable as they cruised to a 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) win over Marleen Van Iersel and Manon Nummerdor-Flier of the Netherlands Wednesday.
Ross said it was the first in her professional career she had played on the right side. And no, it’s not exactly a panic move. As is their custom, the Americans are constantly searching for ways they can improve their game.
“The reason was we want to see if we had any more higher potential with me on the right,” said Ross who added it was the first time in her professional career she took over that side. “Kerri played for three years nonstop on the right and we improved a lot. I don’t think we necessarily hit a peak, but it was like what if we switched things up and see what we can do? Maybe we put ourselves out there for a little faster growth, try something we’ve never tried, so that’s what we’re doing.”
The duo will have two matches tomorrow with one coming against another new team, Brazil’s Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Alves. Barbara captured silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics with longtime partner Agatha Bednarczuk.
“We’ve been training a lot against guys and against girls and we felt really comfortable out there,” Walsh Jennings said. “Our rhythm was really good, which is what this whole game is about, and honestly it felt like we’ve been doing this for a while.
“I was telling April there are a lot of new teams out here and we need to capitalize on that.”
The Netherlands' Marleen van Iersel serving the Mikasa
Van Iersel, a 2016 Olympian, didn’t make it easy, however. She peppered Walsh Jennings and Ross with serves, coming up with three aces and keeping them off balance many times.
Walsh Jennings, of course, was up for the challenge.
“I think Marleen served the hardest I’ve ever been served,” Walsh Jennings said. “She was just going after it and it was just gnarly and awesome so it was a really good showing for us.”
Ross said the switch in sides was made to clear room for Walsh Jennings on the left side. Not only did that work, but Ross showed her prowess by crushing a shot from the right to end the match. Her assessment?
“To be honest, way better than I expected,” Ross said. “I hope I just gain more confidence and get more comfortable there, but Kerri takes up so much on the left which is another positive for us to play this way. She made it easy for me on the right and I’ll keep learning and see how people play me.
“It’s not set in stone. We want to be the best we can and win as many matches and tournaments as we can, so whatever it takes, we’ll do.”