LONDON — The celebrities come out to see Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, whose matches are scheduled for 11 p.m. London time to maximize their exposure on American television.
April Ross and Jennifer Kessy are just fine with that.
"We're happy that Kerri and Misty are there taking all the spotlight," Kessy said Thursday after beating Spain in three long sets to remain unbeaten in pool play and advance to the knockout round of the Olympic beach volleyball tournament.
Kessy and Ross beat Liliana Fernandez and Elsa Baquerizo 21-19, 19-21, 19-17 to finish the preliminary round in London with a 3-0 record and earn a No. 1 seed in the knockout round. Former world champions who barely missed qualifying for the Beijing Games, the Americans are the No. 4 women's team in the world but, as first-time Olympians, they are probably the fourth-best known team in their home country.
NBA stars Kevin Durant and James Harden, among others, came to the beach volleyball venue at Horse Guards Parade to see Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor, sticking around after the match to get autographed volleyballs. Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser are the defending men's gold medalists, and even the No. 2 American men's team of Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal has earned a little exposure through its appearance in Beijing.
"When you win two gold medals, you deserve the spotlight," Ross said of Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor. "They're a legendary team. They're going to go down in history no matter what happens here. I'm just glad they're on the U.S. team."
Kessy and Ross may be newcomers to the Olympics, but they're well-known and well-respected on the international tour.
"Misty and Kerri have the Olympic history," Baquerizo said. "But anyone who understands beach volleyball understands that these guys are a good team."
After losing the first set 21-19, Kessy and Ross fell behind 14-12 in the second and saved three match points in the third to beat Spain and win their group. They are the third — of four — American teams to win a group; Rogers and Dalhausser would win their group with a victory over the Czech Republic later Thursday.
"It wasn't easy for any of us," Kessy said, noting even Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor lost a set at this Olympics after sweeping through the previous two. "We've all worked very hard and we're all very focused and we all want to medal."
Ross and Kessy joined together as a team in 2007 at the start of the Beijing qualification period and were the seventh-best team in the world rankings. But they were the third-ranked American team and quotas limit each country to two.
They won the 2009 world championships and have been hot heading to London, but to combat their lack of Olympic experience they attended the test event in London last summer. They finished second, but more importantly they got used to the sand and the surroundings and got some of the touristy stuff out of the way so when they came back they could focus on their matches.
"It was more about getting familiar with London," Kessy said.
The one thing they said they still wanted to do was meet royalty.
They'll have a chance if they make the gold-medal match: Prince Harry is expected to attend.