Kerri Walsh-Jennings: One of the Greatest College Athletes Ever


Early Life

Kerri Walsh-Jennings was born in Santa Clara, California on August 15, 1978. Her parents were both former athletes, with her father, Timothy Joseph Walsh, playing minor league baseball for the Oakland A’s organization back in the day, while her mother, Margery Lee, was an amazing volleyball player for Santa Clara University. 

Before Walsh-Jennings started high school, her family moved from Scott’s Valley, which was where she grew up, to San Jose. She attended high school at Archbishop Mitty High School, where she played on both the basketball and volleyball teams. The volleyball team won three consecutive state championships from 1993-95, while the basketball team also won a state championship in 1995.  

In 1996, which was the first year they gave out the Gatorade National High School Volleyball Player of the Year, Walsh-Jennings was the one to win it. She was regarded as the best volleyball recruit in the nation during her senior year of high school. It was during her high school playing days where she first competed against future beach volleyball doubles partner, Misty May-Treanor, and asked for her autograph during her sophomore year. Walsh-Jennings graduated from Archbishop Mitty High School in 1996.

Kerri Walsh-Jennings College Volleyball Career

Walsh-Jennings decided to attend Stanford University on a volleyball scholarship. She spent four years at Stanford from 1996-99 and helped the team capture the NCAA title in both 1996 and 1997. In that 1996 season, Walsh-Jennings was named the Final Four MVP. Along with the two national titles, Walsh-Jennings led the team to four PAC-10 titles and a run to the final of the NCAA championship in her senior year, where they ended up falling short of a third title, losing to Penn State. 

During her time at Stanford, Walsh-Jennings was named to the First-Team All-American all four years, becoming the second player to do so in NCAA volleyball history. She finished her college career with 1,533 kills, 1,285 digs, and 502 blocks, making her the first player in PAC-10 history to have at least 500 blocks, 1,200 digs, and 1,500 kills. Walsh-Jennings graduated from Stanford in 2001 with a degree in American studies. She is regarded as one of the best complete volleyball players to ever compete at the collegiate level.

Kerri Walsh-Jennings Professional Volleyball Career

It was during her time at Stanford where Walsh-Jennings first started competing for the USA National Team, playing for the indoor volleyball team starting in 1999. She was named to the team for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where the team would end up finishing in fourth place. That would be the final time she would play indoor volleyball for the United States at the Olympics, as she would make the switch to beach volleyball in 2001. In 2001, she began her partnership with Misty May-Treanor, and that was the start of what would be the greatest beach volleyball team of all time. 

By 2002, the two were the number one ranked beach volleyball team in the world and carried that momentum in 2003 where they won 90 consecutive matches at one point. In the 2003 world championships in Rio, the two captured the first of what would be three world championship gold medals. 

The 2004 Olympics was the start of their dominance at the world’s biggest event, as they took home the gold medal, becoming the first American female duo to win Olympic gold in beach volleyball. 

After winning the world championships in both 2005 and 2007, the two were back at it again on the Olympic stage at the 2008 games in Beijing. They took home the gold once again, winning all seven matches without dropping a set. The gold medal win was the 108th consecutive match win for the two, and their 14th straight Olympic win. They went on to win four more matches before their winning streak was finally snapped at 112. That loss snapped a run of 19 straight titles for the pair as well.

The 2012 games in London would be the final time the two would play together at the Olympics. They would end up winning the gold medal for the third consecutive Olympics and did so without losing a single match. It was an all-American matchup in the final, as Walsh-Jennings and May-Treanor defeated Jen Kessy and April Ross to take the gold. 

May-Treanor would end up retiring in 2012, as the two captured 40 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour titles, three world championship golds, and three Olympic gold medals during their time together. 

Walsh-Jennings would go on to team up with April Ross, as they began a partnership that would last from 2013-2017. The two competed together at the 2016 Rio Olympics and would take home the bronze medal. It was the fourth Olympic medal for Walsh-Jennings, which is the most all-time among both men and women in beach volleyball history. 

After the two ended their partnership in 2017, Walsh-Jennings decided to pair up with Nicole Branagh for most of 2018, where they played six FIVB World Tour events together with a best finish of 5th place. At the end of 2018, Walsh-Jennings announced that she would be playing with Brooke Sweat for 2019 and beyond. The pair hoped to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but were unable to do so after the event was postponed to 2021. 

Walsh-Jennings holds the beach volleyball record for most career victories with 133 wins and the record for most career winnings with just over $2.5 million. She was named the FIVB Best Blocker seven times, Best Hitter five times, Best Offensive Player twice, and Most Outstanding Player four times. Walsh-Jennings and May Treanor also won the Sportswoman of the Year Award in both 2004 and 2006.

Kerri Walsh-Jennings Personal Life

Walsh-Jennings is married to American Casey Jennings, who is also a professional beach volleyball player. The two got married in December of 2005 and have three children together, which include sons Joseph and Sundance, and daughter Scout. She was pregnant with Joseph while competing after the 2008 Olympics and was pregnant with Scout during the 2012 Olympics. In 2011, Walsh-Jennings was inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame, and in 2018 she was inducted into the PAC-12 Hall of Honor.