Kerri and Misty. Jen and April. These names have been so intertwined together for beach volleyball fans that they now roll easily off the tongue. Well, beach volleyball opened a new chapter last weekend at the AVP’s Santa Barbara Open – the chapter of Kerri and April. Get used to it.
The three-time gold medalist and the London silver medalist officially joined forces for their run to Rio de Janeiro in 2016. And they showed that when the best blocker in the world pairs up with the best server in the world, points will be scored with ease. The two won the tournament without ever losing a single set, though Lauren Fendrick and Brittany Hochevar came close in the 21-19 second set of the semifinal.
With both players being high energy and super chatty, there’s a new spring in both their steps when they take the court together.
“It just feels like I'm kind of like that fifth-grader just learning the game again to an extent,” Kerri said. “I haven't had that in so long. It's like the weight is off and it’s just play and learn and grow.”
There will be some learning for Kerri to do in her new role with April. Since both Kerri and Misty played the left side of the court, one of them had to switch to the right. The decision for Kerri to make the change was a quick one.
“It was like a 30 second conversation,” April said. “I'm like ‘Should I go? Do you want to go? What do you think?’ And she was like, ‘I'll go.’ In my head I thought she would be better on the right than I would be.”
Kerri agreed that it might be easier for her to switch because she played on the right side as an indoor player.
“I’m getting more comfortable,” Kerri said. “I forgot that I had these angles. I'm just such a newbie on the right. I think we'd both do well on the right, but she's just the best on the left. I feel like I can learn and she's such a weapon over on two and in so many ways. It's fun to kind of figure out how I get out of trouble but April helps me a lot in that department.”
Right now, it’s clear that both players are having a lot of fun with their new partnership but with just five practices before their first AVP event, they’re making sure not to get too far ahead of themselves.
“In my mind, I'm just playing as hard as I can and doing everything I can to take care of my game,” April said. “And then I help her by setting her well so she plays her game too. We’re just flying by the seat of our pants right now.”
Kerri and April know that they are America’s next great hope for a gold medal in Rio. It’s all rainbows and unicorns right now, but both know that they’re in the honeymoon period and that the tests will come once they hit the international tour.
“That's seriously the most exciting thing for me in all of this, is to figure out how we're going to get through the crap,” said Kerri. “Because we're going to have the spotlight on us, we're going to have the targets on us and I love being in that situation. We're going to have it for three years straight. I think that we're so new, people are going to show us something different every time when they compete against us and come out with nothing to lose and that's going to make us so much better. People play out of their minds when they attack a team like that. So it's going to be awesome.”