After a long season of ups and downs, Casey Jennings’ gamble paid-off this weekend. With Brazilian partner and friend, Pedro Salgado, Jennings won his first tournament in over a year at the Jose Cuervo Beach Volleyball National Championship in Hermosa Beach, CA on Sunday.
Despite his upper-level ranking among American beach volleyball players, the 6’2” Jennings, who was raised in Las Vegas, has been dealt some bad cards this season.
He has struggled this year to find a taller partner with whom he could succeed – someone who could complement his quick defense and cagey net play. Leading up to Sunday’s victory, he had competed with an astounding number of six partners since April, and has not finished higher than fifth among 13 pro tour events.
“It’s been a really tough season for me,” said Jennings in a post-match interview on the Versus network on Sunday.
His hand-picked, tall teammates have been beset with varied degrees of experience and mixed track records. “There’s a drought right now for mean, hungry blockers that want to win,” said Jennings who has just recently extended his search beyond the American border into Canada, and now Brazil.
Salgado, who has developed a friendship with Jennings through their competing on the Federation de Volleyball International tour, welcomed Jennings’ invite. This rising 25-year-old player has played with fellow Brazilians, some of whom are among the world’s best.
“I thank Casey so much, and I am so glad to be playing with one of my best friends,” said Salgado.
But his career has been slightly tarnished by testing positive for exogenous steroid androstane, as reported by Universal Sports last month. While the FIVB investigation proceeds, Salgado is still eligible to compete.
After obtaining the go-ahead from the tour organizer USA Volleyball for Salgado’s participation, Jennings snuck in some practice time with this seventh partner in the lead-in to this weekend event.
As they progressed undefeated through their first five matches last weekend, their partnership began to gel – as each became better acclimated to each other’s playing styles and strengths.
In Sunday’s championship finals, they faced long-term teammates Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal who sought to trump an earlier round nail biter loss to Jennings and Salgado, 21-17, 19-21, 21-19.
In front of a few thousand fans, the talented and clever tandem relied on their individual skills, emerging teamwork, and strategic play to defeat Gibb and Rosenthal in two sets, 21-18, 21-17, and split the $15,000 prize money.
While this newfound partnership may be short-lived, since each seeks to represent their countries in the London Olympics, this win seemed to inject Jennings with a much-needed boost of confidence.
“It is so good to be home and it means everything to win a final,” said Jennings, whose luck now has upside potential.
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