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(Jim McAuley | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kerri Walsh Jennings signs volleyballs for fans after a match at the AVP Salt Lake City Open beach volleyball tournament at Liberty Park on Saturday, August 17, 2013.
Beach Volleyball: Kerri Walsh Jennings eager for return to SLC
AVP Tour » With new partner, beach volleyball star seeking better finish this year.
First Published Aug 06 2014 11:12 am • Last Updated Aug 06 2014 11:24 pm

There’s something to be said about how people make you feel.

Kerri Walsh Jennings could barely remember her opponents or the results for last year’s AVP beach volleyball tour stop in Salt Lake City.

At a glance

About Kerri Walsh Jennings

» Three-time Olympic gold medalist (2004, 2008, 2012)

» All-Time Winningest Female Player in Beach Volleyball History

» Has won 119 tournaments (domestic and international)

» Walsh Jennings and Ross have won nine of 12 tournaments (domestic and international)

» Mother of three Joseph, 5, Sundance, 4, Scout, 1.

» Married to U.S. men’s beach volleyball player Casey Jennings who played at BYU from 1999-2000.

» Fun Fact: Jennings and Misty May Treanor beat April Ross (Walsh Jennings’ new teammate) and Jen Kessy in the championship of the 2012 London Olympics.

AVP Open

O Thursday- Sunday

at Liberty Park

Who » 16 men’s and women’s teams, including Olympians, Nichole Brangh, Jake Gibb, Todd Rogers, April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings.

TV » Sunday, 1:30 and 3 p.m. CBS Sports.

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But she remembers the lasting impression from the fans and the event organizers, and said she can’t wait to come back.

"Last year was a huge success," said Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in 2004, 2008 and 2012. "We want to build on that success and make this year even better."

Walsh Jennings is a part of a field of 16 men’s and women’s teams competing in the AVP tour to stop n Salt Lake City, which starts with preliminaries on Thursday and concludes Sunday with men’s and women’s championship matches.

The CBS Sports Network will televise the men’s title match at 1:30 p.m. and women’s at 3 p.m.

Several of the sport’s bigest names will be competing in the Salt Lake City tournament, including including Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers (2008); silver medalist April Ross (2012); two-time Olympian Jake Gibb (2008, 2012), a Bountiful native; and Olympian Nichole Brangh (2008).

While AVP made an impressive debut in Utah last year, Walsh Jennings and her former partner Whitney Pavlik did not have the same luck. They finished tied for fifth.

"I am not even thinking about that," said the all-time winningest female player in beach volleyball. "I have a new partner… new year. I have grown a lot since last year. I am excited to take on the new challenges."

Walsh Jennings’ new partner, Ross, is also a winner. The tandem is ranked No. 1 in the nation and fourth in the world after winning three of four AVP tournaments and six of 12 international tournaments.

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"I want to win a gold medal in Rio in 2016, and I know that’s what [Ross] wants," said Walsh Jennings. "She has all of the tools to make it happen."

The upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be Walsh Jennings’ fifth appearance at the games. To this point, she has won three-straight gold medals with long-time teammate Misty May Treanor, who retired shortly after the 2012 Olympics in London.

Although, Walsh Jennings had many productive years with May Treanor, she is excited to join ranks with Ross.

"She is the best," said Walsh Jennings, noting that Ross had everything she was looking for in a partner. The pair has been competing together since September 2013.

Every match is important for the twosome as they prepare to qualify for Rio. Walsh Jennings said this opportunity has "awakened new things" in her game and remains confident the duo will qualify.

Walsh Jennings offered some helpful advice for those hoping to pursuit a dream in volleyball — or anything, for that matter.

"You have to get it you all," said Walsh Jennings, who is married to U.S. men’s beach volleyball player Casey Jennings — a former BYU Cougar — and mother of three. "If you don’t put your whole heart into something, I don’t think you will ever see how good you can truly be."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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