Sports

Volleyball amateur Summer Ross showing she is ready for stardom

She has a fitting name for a beach volleyball player — Summer Ross — and she has the game to match.

In 2010, at age 17, she was named the USA Beach Volleyball Athlete of the Year, the first time the award has been given to a junior player.

Jon Aharoni, who is in charge of player development for the U.S. beach volleyball program, said Ross has a “halo” over her head when it comes to the sport.

“The legend of Summer Ross is still being written,” Aharoni said. “And it’s a pretty good read already.”

On Saturday, Ross, now 19 and a 6-2 freshman at Pepperdine University, teamed with the 6-4 Kim Hill, 22, a senior at the same school, to score the biggest upset of the day at the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series in Fort Lauderdale.

Ross and Hill, seeded 27th and last at this event because they are college amateurs playing against veteran professionals, defeated No. 6 Kristen Batt and Tealle Hunkus 21-18, 21-19.

The college kids then came right back and upset No.22 Marcela Gamarra and Brittany Tiegs 17-21, 21-17, 15-11.

But the fairy tale ended right there, as former Olympian Nicole Branagh and her partner, Tyra Turner, beat Ross and Hill in a hard-fought match 21-17, 21-19.

“I’ve played against Nicole four times and never beaten her,” said Ross, who was competing in her first tournament with Hill.

Branagh and Turner, seeded third, are one of four women’s teams still alive to win the championship. They will play second-seeded Jenny Kropp and Whitney Pavlik on Sunday morning.

The other women’s semifinal will match top-seeded Lauren Fendrick and Brooke Hanson against No. 4 Brooke Sweat and Jennifer Fopma.

In one men’s semifinal, top-seeded John Hyden, a former Olympian, and Sean Scott will play No. 5 Russ Marchewka and Billy Allen.

In the other men’s semifinal, second-seeded Brad Keenan and John Mayer will play No. 6 Braidy Halverson and Adrian Carambula.

But the surprising story of the day — to some, at least — was the continued ascension of Ross.

Here are some of her career highlights to date:

• When she was 16, the San Diego native became the youngest player to qualify for the main draw at an AVP Tour event.



• At 17, she won FIVB world championships in the Youth Under-19 in Portugal and the Junior Under-21 in Turkey, becoming the first player to record that double.



Ross captured the first championship with Jane Croson and the second with Tara Roenicke.

• Last month, she led Pepperdine to a national title in sand volleyball, the first year that the beach game has been sanctioned by the NCAA.



Ross and Caitlin Racich also won the national title in a separate tournament, held to decide the best duo.

“Summer is ready to play pro whenever she wants,” Aharoni said. “She’s a future Olympian. The kid never gives up.”

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