Toronto, Canada, September 23, 2016 - Kerri Walsh Jennings has had tremendous stability with her partners.
She won three Olympic gold medals with longtime teammate Misty May-Treanor. When May Treanor was set to retire after the 2012 Olympics, Walsh Jennings wasted no time finding a new partner, approaching silver medalist April Ross at the net after the gold-medal match and telling her, “Let’s go win gold in Rio.”
Now Walsh Jennings, who won a bronze medal with Ross in Rio, heads into the offseason needing a partner for the 2017 season, with Ross planning on starting a family.
“For the first time in my career,” Walsh Jennings said, “there are so many unknowns.”
Walsh Jennings has “no idea” who she will play with next season. She is familiar with some of the top young players from the AVP Tour, but plans on doing more research this offseason. She hopes to get input from Ross.
Once Walsh Jennings identifies a couple of potential partners, she would like to host them for training sessions to see how they mesh. She does not have a definitive timeline, but she would like to have a partner in place for the start of the international beach volleyball season, which is expected to begin in early February.
“I don’t want to be hasty and just find an answer to have an answer,” Walsh Jennings said at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals in Toronto. “I want to do it right and take some time.”
Ross, 34, is married to Brad Keenan, a former beach volleyball player who is now the head coach of the Arizona State University beach volleyball team. Ross is hoping to get pregnant this offseason, but if not, she would play the 2017 season and try again next offseason.
“I don’t want to have to miss two seasons ideally,” she said.
Walsh Jennings has not committed to trying to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She plans on evaluating how she feels at the end of each year.
“The way I work, I would like to know right now,” she said. “But that’s not the reality of the situation.”
Even if Walsh Jennings does try to compete at her sixth Olympics, there is no guarantee that she would reunite with Ross.
“If I keep playing and go to the next Olympics, there is nobody I’d rather play with,” Walsh Jennings said. “But there are no assumptions there. We would have to talk about it and figure it out.”
Ross understands that she could be replaced if Walsh Jennings develops chemistry with her new partner.
“I wouldn’t say that there’s no part of me that doesn’t worry about it,” Ross said. “If at the end of the day that’s what happens, that’s what happens, and I’ll be OK with that.”