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Kessy/Ross collect another Stavanger sword

Jen Kessy and April Ross earned the FIVB World Tour’s No. 1 ranking nearly a month ago. Now, they have their first title of the season to back it up.

The Americans won the FIVB Grand Slam in Stavanger, Norway, on Saturday, defeating Germans Sara Goller and Laura Ludwig (21-16, 21-15) for their first gold medal since winning the Rome Grand Slam in May of 2010. Kessy and Ross had already won silver and bronze medals on the World Tour this season, but the gold was a long time coming.

“We’ve been playing so hard all season, battling and battling and battling and it hadn’t come yet, our win hadn’t come yet,” Kessy said on the broadcast after the match. “Finally it happened here.”

And here — Stavanger — has been very kind to Kessy and Ross. This marks their third title on the southern Norwegian coast — including the world title in 2009 — and fourth trip to the podium in the past five years. And the big prize in Stavanger, in addition to the gold medal, is a Viking sword, handed out to the men’s and women’s winners.

“A third sword, I can’t believe it. This place is magical for us,” Kessy said.

The victory came on a damp and gray day which saw rain begin falling in the second game. But that couldn’t stop Kessy and Ross, who dropped only one set in seven matches in Stavanger. Though Goller and Ludwig never gave up in the final, Kessy and Ross led throughout both games.

The Americans know Goller and Ludwig well, as they train with the Germans most off-seasons, and they’ve now met 12 times on the World Tour. Kessy and Ross lead the all-time series 10-2.

For Goller and Ludwig, Saturday marked their first gold-medal match appearance and first medal of the season. They won five medals last year, four of which were silver, but have yet to grab their first career title on the World Tour.

Earlier Saturday in the bronze-medal match, reigning world champions Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva of Brazil topped Sanne Keizer and Marleen Van Iersel of the Netherlands (21-13, 21-14). That’s the fourth medal of the season for Larissa and Juliana, who have won three of the six tournaments in which they’ve played.

In the semifinals is where Kessy and Ross dropped their lone set, as they defeated Keizer and Van Iersel 25-27, 21-11, 15-11. In the other semi, Goller and Ludwig took out Larissa and Juliana (25-23, 21-19).

U.S. men fall short again
On the men’s side, each of the three U.S. teams were eliminated Saturday prior to reaching the semifinals.

Second-seeded Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser started the day with a pair of wins, taking out 25th-seeded Latvians Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Ruslans Sorokins (21-12, 21-9) and sixth-seeded Spaniards Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera (21-13, 21-15). But their run came to an end in the quarterfinals, when they were dropped in three sets by fourth-seeded Germans Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann (19-21, 23-21, 10-15).

After making 17 straight World Tour semifinal appearances, Rogers and Dalhausser have missed the final four in their last three tournaments while Dalhausser suffers from a sprained ankle. He originally injured it three weeks ago in Beijing, but Rogers said his partner tweaked it again on the first day in Stavanger.

Nineteenth-seeded Americans Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal were also bounced in the quarters, as they fell to third-seeded Brazilians Marcio Araujo and Ricardo Santos (14-21, 14-21). Gibb and Rosenthal started off with victories over No. 26 Alexander Horst and Daniel Mullner of Austria (21-17, 21-19) and No. 8 Wu Penggen and Xu Linyin of China (15-21, 21-12, 15-12). The fifth-place is their best result since taking second in Shanghai the first week of May.

Finishing tied for 17th were 17th-seeded Americans Matt Fuerbringer and Nick Lucena, who were eliminated in their first match of the day by No. 15 Jefferson Bellaguarda and Patrick Heuscher of Switzerland (18-21, 21-15, 14-16).

Brink and Reckermann will face Marcio and Ricardo in one of Sunday’s semifinals, with home-crowd favorites Tarjei Skarlund and Martin Spinnangr, the No. 9 seed from Norway, taking on No. 13 Grzegorz Fijalek and Mariusz Prudel of Poland in the other semifinal.

Skarlund and Spnnangr, who received a beneficial seed as a host team, thrilled the crowd with a quarterfinal upset of top-ranked Brazilians Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti (14-21, 21-16, 15-11), snapping their 25-match winning streak. The Norwegians love playing at home, as they made a run to the gold-medal match last year in Stavanger before taking silver — the only other World Tour semifinal this pair has ever played.

 article courtesy of UniversalSports.com.
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