April Ross celebrating her bronze victory with Kerri Walsh Jennings at the 2016 Olympics

April Ross celebrating her bronze victory with Kerri Walsh Jennings at the 2016 Olympics (Photo by Salty View on Shutterstock)

The sun, the sand, and the sizzling spike – beach volleyball is a sport that thrills with its athleticism and vibrant atmosphere. But at the heart of this excitement are the phenomenal women who dominate the court. From legendary veterans to rising stars, the best female beach volleyball players come from an impressive pool of exceptional athletes. Let’s dive into the world of these powerhouse players, uncover their stories, and celebrate the skills that make them beach volleyball royalty.

Overall, having a volleyball partner can elevate your entire volleyball experience. Even with a partner, it’s not all fun and games. According to a study, women athletes are 50 percent more likely to suffer a concussion than men. Despite years of research, scientists are still scratching their heads about why this is the case. But the benefits of playing a sport are undeniable: from improved skills and performance to enhanced enjoyment and social connections. Until you find your dream teammate, check out this list of the top seven best female beach volleyball players. We compiled our list based on the consensus among eight expert sources. Do you know a player who spikes a point every time? Let us know in the comments below.

woman in white bikini holding yellow ball during sunset
Woman at the beach playing volleyball (Photo by Alexander Jawfox on Unsplash)

The List: Best Female Beach Volleyball Players, Per Fans

1. Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings

Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings is our number one best female beach volleyball player. Her career has seen her partner up with some of the sport’s biggest names. From 2001 to 2009, the champion player dominated alongside the legendary Misty May-Treanor. They continued their winning streak briefly in 2011 and 2012 before Walsh Jennings teamed up with other champions like Nicole Branagh (2010), April Ross (2013-2017), and her current partner, Brooke Sweat (2019-present), says Pakmen Volleyball.

Walsh Jennings, who hails from Santa Clara, has an impressive list of awards. Her overflowing trophy cabinet overflows with multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals from competitions all over the world, says Yen. But wait, there’s more! She has a staggering 135 victories to her name.

She isn’t just a beach volleyball star, she’s a champion with a nickname to match – “Six Feet of Sunshine”! From Athens in 2004 to Beijing in 2008 and all the way to London in 2012, she dominated the international scene, solidifying her place as a beach volleyball powerhouse, adds Straw Poll.

2. April Ross

Get ready to be wowed by American legend April Ross. From 2007 to 2013, she dominated alongside Jennifer Kessy. Then, she joined forces with the legendary Kerri Walsh Jennings for a formidable partnership that lasted from 2013 to 2017. Ross has also played with other volleyball stars throughout her career, including Lauren Fendrick (2017), Barbra Fontana, Keao Burdine, and Nancy Mason (all in 2006), and Alix Klineman (2018), mentions Pakmen Volleyball.

Ross is no stranger to the Olympic spotlight. She’s competed in an impressive three Olympic Games back to back (2012, 2016 and 2020), but with a different teammate each time, notes Rookie Road.

She also played indoor volleyball for Orange County Volleyball Club for about five years. Later, she decided to switch from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball. She’s not just a one-trick pony; her incredible physical prowess combined with the ability to adapt and succeed with different teammates leaves her opponents in the dust, explains Straw Poll.

3. Misty Elizabeth May-Treanor

Even at number three on our list, Misty Elizabeth May-Treanor is considered one of the best female beach volleyball players ever. The list of her awards includes AVCA National Player of the Year (two times) and AVP Most Valuable Player (three times), explains Straw Poll.

May-Treanor isn’t just a household name, she’s a triple Olympic gold medal machine! And she is no stranger to winning partnerships. Most notably, she dominated alongside our number one player, Kerri Walsh Jennings, for two separate stretches – from 2001 to 2009 and again in 2011 and 2012, mentions Pakmen Volleyball. But her winning ways started even earlier, with a partnership with Holly McPeak (who also made the list!) from 1999 to 2000. 

She retired from competitive play on August 8, 2012, after she and Walsh Jennings finished first in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. They raked in gold medals at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Summer Olympics, an achievement that cemented their status as the “greatest beach volleyball team of all time.” May-Treanor’s incredible career was further solidified with her induction into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2016, informs Ranker.

4. Laura Ludwig

It is said that if beach volleyball fans around the world were asked to describe Laura Ludwig in two words, they would say “smart” and “passionate.” She is one of the most captivating players to watch on the World Tour, and it’s all thanks to her incredible defense, praises Beach Major Series.

The World Tour’s Best Defensive Player in 2013 and 2017, Laura is also one of the few players in the world to score straight from defense with her trademark move of returning opponents’ spikes directly to their courts. Rookie Road joins the chorus, solidifying her place among the sport’s all-time greats.

A three-time Olympian, Laura grew over the years to become one of the world’s top defenders, and experience played a big factor in it. Known for her aggressive style of play, she brings the heat and never lets the opponent dictate the pace, boasts Straw Poll

5. Natalie Cook

Beach volleyball veteran Natalie Cook is a familiar face on the Olympic sand! She has an impressive resume – she’s a five-time Olympian with a medal collection to match, says Pakmen Volleyball. She struck gold in Sydney 2000, brought home a bronze in Atlanta 1996, and added another bronze to her collection at the 2003 World Championships.

Born in 1975, Cook carved her name in history as the first Australian woman to compete at five Olympic Games, according to Ranker. Her Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medal wasn’t just a victory on the sand, it was a national triumph! Cook’s incredible achievement was recognized with a prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia, solidifying her place as a sporting hero in her home country.

Talk about dedication! Beach volleyball legend Natalie Cook’s career spanned an impressive two decades, starting back in 1993. She participated in a record-breaking 165 international FIVB events, Rookie Road adds.

6. Holly McPeak

Beach volleyball legend Holly McPeak is a name you need to know! This three-time Olympian racked up a whopping 72 beach volleyball titles throughout her career, putting her in third place for most titles won by a female professional, explains Ranker. And get this – her career earnings soared to a cool 1.4 million dollars, making her the second-highest earner in women’s beach volleyball history (only bested by the legendary Misty May-Treanor). While a gold medal might have eluded her, she did snag a prestigious bronze at the 2004 Summer Olympics alongside partner Elaine Youngs.

Though McPeak’s trophy cabinet is overflowing, Rookie Road suggests it could have been even more impressive! They point out her status as an Olympian, hinting that with more major beach volleyball competitions available earlier in her career, she might have dominated the sand even further. 

At five feet, seven inches McPeak is one of the shortest players in beach volleyball history. But her stature was never a line in the sand. She was voted WPVA’s MVP as well as best defensive player in 1995. On the 1996 WPVA Tour – she was the undisputed champion, writes Strength and Power. Her skills were so impressive that she reached a staggering nine finals, winning a whopping eight of them! And that’s not all – she achieved this victory with two different partners, showcasing her adaptability and ability to excel on the sand with various teammates.

7. Talita Antunes

Keep an eye on the fiery talent that is Talita Antunes! Not only was the blocker named FIVB Rookie of the Year in 2005, but she also went on to conquer the World Tour in both 2013 and 2015, says Yen. With a winning record and a playing style that Yen describes as “one of the hottest” (think dynamic and exciting to watch), Talita is an unstoppable force.

By the age of 19, this rising beach volleyball star, born in Aquidauana, caught the eye of none other than Olympic Champion Jacqueline Silva, explains Straw Poll. Antunes is known to many experts and fans for her quick and agile movements.

In 2009, she teamed up with another rising star, Maria Elisa Antonelli, and together they took the beach volleyball world by storm, informs Volleybox. Their winning streak was undeniable, conquering gold medals in the 2009 Swatch FIVB World Tour across various locations like China, South Korea, Switzerland, and Norway. She also partnered with Giseli Gavio on the Italian Circuit, ranking fourth overall. 


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About Janelle Davis

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