LONG BEACH –— Network television cameras will still capture images of April Ross this weekend at the Federation Internationale de Volleyball World Series of Beach Volleyball at Marine Green Park. But it won't be in the more prestigious Grand Slam event.
The 2012 Olympic silver medalist and former world champion, and her longtime partner Jennifer Kessy, the No. 1-seeded pair, were ousted, 21-15, 13-21, 16-14, Thursday in the women's round of 16, by the No. 5-seeded Brazilian tandem of Agatha Bednarczuk and Maria Antonelli.
Ross and Kessy will be one of four teams in women's World Series Cup contested Saturday and Sunday.
Ross and Kessy, playing together in competition for the first time in a month, rallied from a 9-6 deficit to take a 12-10 lead in Game 3, the latter two points coming off the final two of six ace serves in the match by Ross. But the Brazilian duo that defeated Ross and three-time Olympic gold medalist Keri Walsh Jennings in the previous FIVB Grand Slam event earlier this month in Gstaad, Switzerland, rallied to knot the score at 12, then came up with a stuff block against Ross to take a one-point lead.
A missed serve by Antonelli allowed the Americans to pull even at 14-14, but after Ross took something off her typically punishing jump serve, Bednarczuk put away a kill to sideout.
Kessy, who led the Americans with 16 kills, then flicked a kill attempt wide to force she and Ross to settle for a share of ninth place.
"We're usually pretty clutch at the end of games," said Kessy, who showed up solo to answer media questions after the loss. "But we weren't in this one, unfortunately. It just wasn't our day today."
Ross and Kessy, whose seven-year partnership is winding down amid much attention paid to Ross' impending pairing with Walsh Jennings, have not won any of the eight FIVB Grand Slam events this season. They were second in Italy in early June and were fourth at the event in Argentina in late May.
"You get a ninth place at Wimbledon, you are paying for everybody else's dinner," Kessy said with a smile. " But you get a ninth place here, it's a big deal and you suck. So, we got a top-10 [finish] in a grand slam and that's tough to do, especially the way they are doing [the round of 16 pairings] now, by picking names out of a hat."
The No. 1 seed playing the No. 5 seed was hardly fortuitous for the top seeds, but Kessy is used to rolling with the punches these days with the whirlwind of attention heaped on the eventual Ross-Walsh Jennings pairing.
"It's a little frustrating," Kessy said. "We all three knew it was happening. We talked about it a long time ago, so it's not like it was a surprise to me and I wanted it to happen. I'm the one who doesn't want to play as much internationally anymore.
"It's more the media and everyone else wanting April and Keri to play together so bad, they can't even enjoy the fact that April and I are finishing this year together. It hurts a little bit. I mean half of it is Keri's media push and I understand she has to do that. But it would have been nice for her to keep it a little bit more quiet for a while to let April and I finish our time together. We have a silver medal together, we're world champions, we're all this, and it's getting overlooked. So, it would be nice to be able to have this time with April, but without this cloud of Keri over my head. But that's just how it is."
Kessy, however, said the impending change has had no effect on the Ross-Kessy duo between the lines.
"April and I have never been upset at each other like that ever," Kessy said. "Everything is always out on the table. That's why it is going to be tough for either of us to ever find a partner like we have in each other. It's just open and honest and it's fantastic."
In the men's Grand Slam event on Thursday, Costa Mesa resident Jake Gibb and his partner, Casey Patterson of Huntington Beach, advanced to Friday's round of 16. Gibb and Patterson, the No. 1 seeded team, defeated No. 16-seeded Robert Hufa and Jan Hadrava of the Czech Republic, 21-13, 21-18, in a second-round match.
Gibb-Patterson will face No. 13-seeded Markus Bockermann and Mischa Urbatzka of Germany at 8:15 a.m. on Friday.
Gibb and Patterson will also take part in the men's World Series Cup, to be contested on Sunday.