Huntington Beach, Calif., September 21, 2015 - On the first day of fall, Emily Day and Jennifer Kessy stepped on a plane bound for China.
The seasons may have officially changed, but the summer continues for Day and Kessy, who are making every charge they can in order to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
To say they’re taking the long way to close the 2015 FIVB World Beach Volleyball Tour season, might be an understatement, but with the risk comes their possible reward. When their trip takes them to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Day and Kessy will take to the sand and try to capture the $100,000 first prize in the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals.
They’ll have to battle nine of the other top-ranked teams in the world to do it, and they’ll likely be trying to ward off the effects of jet lag, but the first-year pairing of the American duo is one determined team for the tournament that runs from September 29 through October 4.
“We considered (dropping the Xiamen Open) but we need China’s points. so we need to go to China with Fort Lauderdale being the cherry on top,” the 28-year-old Day said. “It’s going to be fun. You know every game is going to be an absolute battle.
“We’re somewhat the underdogs because we got the wild card, but I’m excited that we’re playing on home turf against the best in the world with a really fun atmosphere.”
And how many air miles and hours go into this trip?
“I don’t think we should ask that question,” Day said with a laugh. “From Hong Kong to Newark is 14 hours or so. We just pray for the upgrade and see what happens.”
It’s been an educational year for Day and Kessy on the FIVB World Tour this year. They started the season with a fifth-place finish in Moscow, but haven’t finished higher than ninth since.
One of their bigger adjustments was pulling Day through tournament after tournament of being served on virtually every point. It’s the treatment Kessy got when she teamed with April Ross to capture the silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
“It’s crazy,” Kessy said. “I wish I could give her more advice because the first time I did it, it was kind of like this - just every single tournament really matters. The last time (with Ross), one bad tournament here or there was OK because we had won a tournament. I wish I could give her more information on it, be a better veteran but she’s doing pretty well.
“As someone who has received all the serves for years and years, to be honest, she’s doing a good job. It’s so hard, it’s mentally exhausting, then you beat a team 21-5 and 21-8 and they’re still serving you. Then I look over at April and say, ‘Well, I wouldn’t serve her either.’
“(Emily) is mentally ready to get every serve now. I’m super happy if I get a couple of serves.”
Day admits the challenge is a difficult one but has no complaints. No time for that, anyway.
“For me I’ve definitely had ups and downs,” Day said. “Because she has gone through it, she just tells me - ‘Ball’s coming to you, you’ve got to get it done.’ She’s right there battling with me every point.”
Despite the inconsistency, they don’t count out their chances in any event. They simply keep plugging away until their game slicks.
“Sometimes we’re great and sometimes we’re not, and so we’re banking on that great coming out more and more,” Kessy said. “Sometimes one of us shows up, the other one doesn’t. When both of us show up, we beat Juliana (Felisberta) and Maria (Antonelli). That’s what happens when we both show up and we can do it.
“Whether that’s new partnership, who knows? We know that it’s there.”