April Ross and Kerri Walsh-Jennings began the 2017 FIVB World Tour campaign at the Fort Lauderdale Major on Wednesday with a new look for their team.
The pair switched sides for the first time in their partnership, which proved to be a huge success for the pair as they flew through their opening match 2-0 (21-18, 21-17) over Dutch pair Marleen van Iersel and Manon Nummerdor-Flier. Ross said that it was the first time in her professional beach career that she has played on the right side. The decision to change things up comes as the Americans are always looking to find ways to improve their game.
“The reason was we want to see if we had any more higher potential with me on the right,” said Ross. “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 switch 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.”
Today, the pair is set to play in two matches, one coming to newly formed Brazilian squad Barbara Seixas and Fernanda Alves. Barbara took home the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with longtime partner Agatha Bednarczuk.
“We’ve been training a lot against guys and against girls and we felt really comfortable out there,” said Walsh-Jennings. “Out 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.”
Despite the win and looking comfortable on the court, the Dutch pair caught them off guard multiple times with van Iersel’s tough serve. The team however, pulled together to take on the challenge, winning their first match.
The switch of sides was made to open up Walsh-Jennings on the left side, which gave Ross a new outlook on the court and to show off her abilities and court diversity.
“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,” said Ross.