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BEACH VOLLEYBALL

Casey Jennings' defeat eclipsed by son's birth

Jennings' wife, Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh, gave birth to a baby boy Friday night.

May 24, 2009|Pete Thomas

Casey Jennings experienced a long and wearying Saturday, playing in three grueling matches late into the afternoon with partner Matt Fuerbringer at the AVP Crocs Tour Huntington Beach Open.

It was not a happy ending from a volleyball standpoint. The seventh-seeded team began the day by enduring a third-round loss to second-seeded Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal and were relegated to the contenders' bracket.

From there they defeated Will Strickland and Aaron Wachtfogel but lost to the Kevin Wong and Matt Olson by twin scores of 21-19 and left with a seventh-place finish.

But while Fuerbringer might have inwardly seethed, Jennings visibly beamed.

After all, his newest and by far his youngest fan awaited him back home, barely a day old, along with an equally weary Olympic gold-medalist wife, Kerri Walsh.

Joseph Michael Jennings, the couple's first child, was born at 7:15 Friday night. He weighs 8 pounds, 10 ounces, and sports a soft shock of blond hair, the same color as Dad's.

Talk about a topsy-turvy 24 hours for Jennings, 33, who married Walsh in 2005. Walsh was a week past her due date when main-draw play began Friday next to Huntington Beach Pier. (Jennings and Fuerbringer won both of their Friday matches.)

But at least "Joey" waited until Dad was finished playing Friday to enter the world.

Walsh's water broke at 6 p.m. Friday, five minutes after Jennings returned to their Hermosa Beach home. Jennings drove her to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in traffic.

"It was just a beautiful thing," Jennings, a defensive specialist, recalled. "Kerri is a star. She waited for me to get home, and I think mentally she just did exactly what she wanted to do."

Walsh gave birth naturally; it lasted 1 hour, 14 minutes. And Jennings will never forget the first look the baby gave Mom. He drifted back to the moment and explained:

"The baby looked at her right away and was just staring at her like: 'This is the woman that's been talking to me for the past nine months.' And he's looking at her, and you can just tell there was that immediate bond."

Joseph's middle name is in honor of Michael Whitmarsh, a former beach volleyball star and Olympic silver medalist, who committed suicide in February.

Asked if he was an emotional wreck Saturday, Jennings said he was not. "I wanted to win and be able to tell him, 'The day after you were born I kicked some butt, and that 'The day you were born I kicked some butt!' "the proud dad exclaimed.

On the sand, Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers sailed through both matches to advance via the winners' bracket to today's semifinals. Their opponents will be determined via the contenders' bracket today. Dalhausser-Rogers beat 12th-seeded Ty Loomis and Casey Patterson, 21-15, 21-17, in the fourth-round.

Also advancing via the winners' bracket were Gibb and Rosenthal, who prevailed in a three-game fourth-round marathon against third-seeded John Hyden and Sean Scott. The score was 21-19, 18-21, 16-14.

On the women's side, top-seeded Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs and second-seeded Jennifer Kessy and April Ross advanced via the winners' bracket.

Branagh-Youngs beat Brooke Hansen and Lisa Rutledge in the fourth round, 21-15, 27-29, 15-10. Kessy-Ross beat Annett Davis and Jenny Johnson Jordan, 21-14, 21-14.

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pete.thomas@latimes.com

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