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Walsh Jennings, Sweat qualify

Walsh Jennings, Sweat Qualify for Main Draw in Xiamen

Kerri Walsh Jennings-p1440

The pressure, for the moment — if but a brief moment — is lifted. Not entirely, but gone is the throat-tightening, single-elimination portion of the four-star FIVB in Xiamen, China for Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat.

They’ve made it through two rounds of single-elimination country quota matches. They’ve made it through two rounds of single-elimination qualifier matches, beating Switzerland and France in straight sets.

Now it’s onto main draw, a critical opportunity to accumulate points and, hopefully for Walsh Jennings and Sweat, rise up the ranks to begin avoiding those single-elimination pressure cookers.

After everything was re-seeded, Walsh Jennings and Sweat were placed in a brutal pool, with Barbara and Fernanda of Brazil, Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy of Australia, and Talita Antunes and Taiana Lima of Brazil.

They will open up against Barbara, a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Games, and Fernanda, who won a pair of events last season. The winners of that match will play the winner of Brazil-Australia, while the losers will play one another in a win-or-go-home match.

Other American teams in the mix include Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman, who will open up with Finland. Alix Klineman and April Ross begin with China, while Sara Hughes and Summer Ross make their season debuts against Italy’s Viktoria Orsi Toth — sister of LMU’s Reka Orsi Toth — and Marta Menegatti.

On the men’s side, Billy Allen and Stafford Slick won both of their qualifying matches to make the main draw, while John Hyden and Ryan Doherty fell to Turkey in the final qualifying round.

Already in the main draw are Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, who play Brazil’s Andre Loyola and George Wanderley, while Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb also debut against Brazil in Alison and Alvaro Filho.