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United States' April Ross, left, and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate a point over China during a women's beach volleyball match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Former Pac-12 players Walsh Jennings, Ross dig new partnership

RIO DE JANEIRO — When the two USA women’s beach volleyball teams played against each other in the 2012 London Olympics, April Ross and Jen Kessy came in second to Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor.

Now, with May-Treanor retired, the two former Pac-12 athletes Walsh Jennings and Ross have partnered up with plans to take gold in Rio.

“I think it was the next logical step,” Walsh Jennings said. “Both of our partners were retiring or taking a break, and April was the best in the world and I was ready to surround myself with the best so for me, it was a no-brainer.”

The duo has proven to be successful so far, winning matches against China and Australia in the preliminary rounds.

“It’s definitely different than London,” Ross said. “Different partner, different crew and a different mission, I think.”

Both athletes played indoor volleyball at Pac-12 schools. Ross went to USC, where she helped her school get to the NCAA Final Four in 2003. Walsh Jennings attended Stanford.

The duo both played indoor and beach volleyball in and out of college before starting their Olympic careers.

At one point, Ross quit entirely before jumping back in and eventually winning a silver in London.

“No doubt about it, playing in the Pac-12 prepared me for my athletic career,” Ross said.

While their college days may be long behind them, Ross will continue to get a taste of of Pac-12 volleyball as her husband Brad Keenan accepted a position in May to coach the ASU’s men’s beach volleyball team.

Despite finishing behind her new partner back in 2012, Ross and Walsh Jennings have formed a tight bond playing for their country.

“It’s why we’re here – we want to represent Team USA,” Ross said. “There are so many great and amazing things about our country, and it’s an honor.”

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