Night Matches Bring Walsh Jennings To Prime Time

by Morgan Brinlee

Even the mere mention of beach volleyball evokes images of sun-drenched sandy beaches. But for Kerri Walsh Jennings, Team USA's own "Six Feet of Sunshine" competing in Rio at the women's Olympic beach volleyball tournament has meant moonlight matches under starry night skies. American duo April Ross and Walsh Jennings advanced to the quarterfinals Friday after defeating Italy's Marta Menegatti and Laura Giombini 2-0 in a midnight round of 16 match. So, when will Ross and Walsh Jennings play again in Rio? The American duo is scheduled to hit the sand long after the sun has gone down.

Friday's midnight match against Italy was a seemingly quick two-set win of 21-10, 21-16 for Ross and Walsh Jennings, who'd fought hard through three tense sets to defeat Switzerland's Isabelle Forrer and Anouk Verge-Depre 21-13, 22-24, 15-12 for a 2-1 win on Wednesday. If you're looking to catch Ross and Walsh Jennings' next match, prepare for a night in front of the television. The American duo is reportedly set to play the winner of the round of 16 match between Kinga Kolosinska and Monika Brzostek of Poland and Taliqua Clancy and Louise Bawden of Australia on Aug. 14 at 10 p.m. ET.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Ross and Walsh Jennings' quarterfinals match will be the fourth match (out of five) the women have played under the moonlight at midnight on Rio's Copacabana beach. The late-night matches come reportedly at the request of U.S. Olympic broadcast network NBC, who is looking to keep the popular American team in prime time. While it may make for a few late nights in Rio, the midnight scheduling doesn't appear to be bothering the U.S. beach volleyball team. "Really great night last night," Walsh Jennings said in a series of posts published to her various social media accounts early Saturday. "Competing on #copacabana at midnight is a pretty special [thing]! Loving every minute of it out there with April Ross."

With three Olympic gold medals already under her belt, Walsh Jennings is chasing a fourth in Rio with Ross as her new partner. The two teamed up after Misty May-Treanor, Walsh Jennings' former partner, retired following the 2012 London Olympics. Should the Americans manage to win in Rio, it would be Ross' first gold medal. She and partner Jennifer Kessy snagged silver at the 2012 Games in London after being defeated by Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor.

So far, they've exhibited nothing short of dominance in Rio, pulling a 4-0 winning streak. However, the American duo faces strong competition from Brazil's much-beloved Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk, the sport's current world champions.