Walsh Jennings, Sweat win country quota

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat Make it Through Itapema Country Quota


It was only six days ago that Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat were celebrating a country quota victory. That one was in Hermosa Beach, just one win needed, over Brittany Howard and Kelly Reeves, to put them into a four-star qualifier in Jinjiang, China.

The most recent one came on a blustery Tuesday late morning in Itapema, Brazil. Different country. Different quota. Different Kelly on the other side of the net.

Same result, a two-set victory over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil to put them into the qualifier for a four-star in Itapema, Brazil.

“Playing in these country quota matches, no matter how much I hate them, which I truly do, I really do appreciate the sharpening it gives us,” Walsh Jennings said after winning the quota for Jinjiang. “These girls are great.”

At the time, she was referencing Howard and Reeves, who indeed are great. But she could have been referencing the American women as a holistic unit of excellent volleyball players. Claes and Sponcil have both medaled on the FIVB Tour several times. It was just a few months ago that they were competing in a four-star final, at The Hague, despite Sponcil still having one season left at UCLA.

There’s a reason players hate country quotas: The team you’re playing just to get into the qualifier is the same one who could win the whole thing. Now Walsh Jennings and Sweat have that chance.

They’ll be the three seed in Wednesday’s 16-team qualifier. Fellow Americans Brittany Hochevar and Carly Wopat, who received the qualification wild card, are the five. On the men’s side, only Theo Brunner and Reid Priddy are in the qualifier, while Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb, Billy Allen and Stafford Slick, Ryan Doherty and John Hyden, and Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger — recipients of the main draw wild card — are in the main draw, which begins Thursday.