Stanford grad Kerri Walsh-Jennings knows this is all ending, but what an end it was in London. The women's volleyball partnership of Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor has three gold medals to their name, and it's a dynasty that should last for quite some time in the emerging sport of beach volleyball.
They started as Kerri Walsh and Misty May in Athens as the favorites. They blitzed through the competition virtually unscathed in 2004 on their way to an Olympic gold medal. Not one set dropped, not one blip on the radar in an unstoppable rampage to finishing first.
May got married before Beijing and became May-Treanor. This time they weren't the favorites, but instead it was Tian Jia and Wang Jie of China they had to beat on home sand. No problem for Walsh and May-Treanor, who edged out the world's number 1 in straight sets, 21-18, 21-18. Again, not a set dropped.
This time in London it was the final hurrah, a last chance to make history. May-Treanor was retiring, Walsh-Jennings had joined her partner in marrying, and a new era of beach volleyballers were on their way. Finally they lost a set in group play, and their sets were far more ragged, far more contested. Yet they still won the rest of the sets, and swept through the playoff rounds like it was the old days. There was just a gritty feel to this one, a sense that this was ending, but they played very much like they did when they first started: May sparking the attack at the net and digging like mad, Walsh coming up with the blocks and providing the supporting spikes and huge assists to set up May.
Add in the experience, and victory came naturally.
It's hard not to recognize the impact the two have had on the sport of volleyball (beach or indoor). They legitimized the sport and made it matter in the national consciousness, and now the world beach volleyball tour has made huge strides during their time in the sun with solid TV deals and partnerships. It's become one of the most popular American events at the Olympics, and could very well inspire future and current talents from the Pac-12 volleyball powers to take to the beach to try and capture Olympic gold in an alternative venue.
And Walsh-Jennings isn't necessarily done. She's indicated she'll move on and try for more history in Rio. The ambition of Pac-12 Olympic athletes just never stops.