USA

How unlikely April Ross-Alix Klineman partnership sparked beach volleyball gold bid

After just four years of international beach volleyball experience, American Alix Klineman is headed to the Olympic final alongside teammate April Ross.

Klineman, 31, began as an indoor volleyball player and made the transition to the beach in 2017.

That year the 39-year-old Ross was looking for a new partner after splitting from Lauren Fendrick and was instantly struck by Klineman’s work ethic, despite having no beach volleyball experience.

“When you’re working for something like this, you need somebody who’s gonna work their butt off every day and have a fire under their butt,” Ross said to reporters. “I knew her story and I knew that she was coming out to the beach to make the Olympics. To take such a risk for herself, I knew that was gonna be a huge motivating factor.”

Alix Klineman and April Ross
Getty Images

Klineman studied film, read about techniques and saw where some of her indoor volleyball skills were not translating.

“Alix did study the game more than anyone else I’ve ever known,” said Ross, who won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics alongside volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings. “She’d go home and watch a ton of video and I’d be like, well, I better go home and watch video, too.”

It was that perseverance that made them into a successful pair, winning silver at their second FIVB tournament and at the 2019 world championships. Now, they’re the No. 2 tandem in the world.

The duo has won six consecutive matches in straight sets at the Olympics.

“She has worked so hard to get where she is,” Ross said. “I didn’t want to let her down. I think the fact that we’re in the gold medal match is just what we both wanted for each other.”

In their semifinal triumph over Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidric of Switzerland, the Americans took an offensive approach: Ross tallied 15 attack points while Klineman added nine.

Klineman — who was the Association for Volleyball Professionals’ best blocker in 2018 and 2019 — showed off her defensive prowess had four block points in the match.

“I think Alix really took over with her blocking and that was a huge key to our game plan,” Ross said. “So she really got in their face and affected them a lot.”

On Friday, Klineman and Ross will face Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy so see if their pairing can stand up to the final test.

“It’s the most amazing feeling and we dreamed of this,” Klineman said. “This is what we worked for every single day. But just cause you work for it and just cause you do everything you can doesn’t mean that it happens. So the fact that everything is falling into place, it feels so magical.”

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