MAJOR UPSET ALERT: Agatha and Barbara stop Kerri Walsh Jennings perfect Olympics match streak
Welcome to Rio Roundup, Day Eleven
And what an exciting day and night of competition.
Both the women’s indoor volleyball and basketball teams beat up on Japan, and Simone Biles became the fifth gymnast to win four gold medals in the same Olympics.
However, the beach volleyball at Copacabana Beach was something to behold.
The first semifinal in the afternoon featured Walkenhorst and Ludwig of Germany and they made key shots to thwart off any ideas that Larissa and Talita might have had. Those final scores were in favor of the Germans 21-18 and 21-12.
The men followed with Brazil’s remaining hope of Bruno Schmidt and Alison survive a three set thriller over the Dutch pair of Meeuswen and Brower by scores of 21-17, 21-13, and 16-14.
Finally, midnight in Rio came and went and it was showtime:
The second ranked team according to the FIVB rankings in Agatha and Barbara played like a confident pair against one of the legends in the sport. Kerri Walsh Jennings had won the previous 26 matches and lost only two sets en route to her three straight Olympic gold medals dating all the way back starting with Athens in 2004.
Playing on the opposite side of the field thanks to new partner April Ross, Agatha kept serving to Kerri and it led to five aces in the first set. Neither team led by more than two points in the opening set, but Team USA had several chances to put Brazil back on their heels. In front of a very hostile crowd, Brazil bent often but never broke down in confidence.
The Brazilian pair was determined to not let their chance of winning gold in their home nation slip away. Down 20-18, Barbara made some amazing cut shots to go right at Kerri’s strength. The result–uncharacteristic errors and many returns going out of bounds and some serves going just beyond the end line where on other nights would have been aces.
The first ace for April Ross did not occur until the second set when both teams were tied at 11-11. Each time they yelled, “Line” or “Angle”, there was Barbara acting like a cat and making every difficult play seem a bit easier.
The final stats were almost even across the board, but Agatha’s three blocks were so huge that the American team seemed a bit out of sorts.
Even with Al Roker, Billy Bush, and Natalie Morales from the Today show in attendance, the Americans did not quit. They hung tough, but in the end–I felt Brazil wanted it more. The final scores were 22-20 and 21-18 in a very tense and frenetic 50 minutes of play. Kerri has lost three sets in all of her times playing in the Olympics, and only lost one other set before this Olympiad (the other time she lost a set was during the third preliminary match to the pair from Switzerland).
Instead of Kerri Walsh Jennings hoping to make more legendary history since the four-peat trip for gold stopped one match short, she and April Ross will play the other Brazilian pair of Larissa and Talita at 10 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday for the bronze. Agatha and Barbara hope to win gold for the home nation against a very good pair from Germany at 11 p.m. The men will close out the action on the beach come Thursday night, same times on famed Copacabana Beach as Brazil will play for gold against Nicolai and Lupo from Italy.
Although Walsh Jennings and Ross were ranked third in the FIVB rankings, most people north of the Equator feel that this was indeed a colossal upset. In my mind, I will remember this match as two excellent teams who tried to do everything possible to come out on top.