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April Ross finds new partner for Tokyo 2020 Olympic run

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April Ross, a silver and bronze medalist at the last two Olympics, will try for gold in 2020 with a new partner who has no international beach volleyball experience.

Ross said she and Alix Klineman, a recent beach convert from indoor, are partnering for this Olympic cycle, beginning with the first FIVB World Tour event of 2018 in January.

“It was [either] the safe choice or the choice I thought was challenging but had the most potential,” Ross said on a podcast published Wednesday. “It came down to really intangible things. I decided to go with Alex Klineman, take a shot at Tokyo with her.”

The 35-year-old Ross won silver at the 2012 Olympics with Jennifer Kessy and bronze in Rio with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

Ross and Walsh Jennings split last spring. Ross paired with Rio Olympian Lauren Fendrick for the rest of the season.

They won silver at the world championships, when Ross said they would re-evaluate their partnership at the end of the season.

Ross said she trained with “a couple of people” before partnering with Klineman, a 27-year-old who primarily played indoor over the last decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10.

Klineman was the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school and the Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year for her senior season at Stanford.

She then gained some indoor national team experience, including playing as a reserve in the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix but never at the world championships or Olympics.

Klineman also served a 13-month doping ban in 2013 and 2014 after testing positive for a banned substance found in one of her mom’s pills that she took. USADA, in announcing the 13-month ban, accepted that Klineman’s ingestion was inadvertent, and she did not intentionally cheat.

Klineman, who is 6 feet, 5 inches (three inches taller than Walsh Jennings), moved full-time to the beach in 2017, taking AVP Rookie of the Year honors but not playing any international events.

“I watched her a little bit, just after one season on the beach, I thought she was picking up some really good things, was a lot quicker than I expected her to be,” said Ross, who like Klineman played indoor volleyball in college in California (USC). “She has that chip on her shoulder a little bit. It reminds me of me when I got out onto the beach because I wanted to go to the Olympics indoor. I tried training with the national team a bunch and just felt overlooked, like all the time. Things weren’t objective. … She could keep playing indoor [professionally in Europe or Brazil] and keep making a good amount of money. She’s out here on the beach because she wants to go to the Olympics, and she has something to prove.”

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Phil Dalhausser named beach volleyball’s most outstanding player

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Phil Dalhausser earned beach volleyball’s top international honor, the World Tour’s Most Outstanding Player, for the fourth time and the first time since 2014.

Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic champion, and partner Nick Lucena won three tournaments this season, including the World Tour Finals. At the 2016 Olympics, the duo lost to eventual gold medalists Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt of Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Dalhausser was also named the Best Blocker for the seventh time and the Best Offensive Player for the fifth time. He has won more post-season awards, 30, than any other player.

Fellow American John Hyden was named the Most Inspirational Player. The 44-year-old, a two-time Olympian in indoor, finished top-five in four of his six international tournaments in 2017 with Ryan Doherty.

On the women’s side, Germany’s Laura Ludwig was named the Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive season. Ludwig and partner Kira Walkenhorst swept the year’s two biggest tournaments: the world beach volleyball championships and World Tour Finals. They also won the two most prestigious tournaments of 2016: the Rio Olympics and World Tour Finals.

Ludwig was also named the Best Defensive Player, Sportswoman of the Year and Most Inspirational Player.

American April Ross was voted the Best Server for the fifth time and the third consecutive season.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, has said she will reevaluate her partnership with Lauren Fendrick at the end of this season.

22-year-old Sara Hughes, won two national championships with Kelly Claes at USC, was honored as the Rookie of the Year.

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German Olympic champions sweep year’s two biggest beach volleyball tournaments

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Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst continued to dominate the international beach volleyball scene, adding the World Tour Finals title Saturday to go along with their victory at the world beach volleyball championships earlier this month.

Playing in front of their home fans in Hamburg, the German pair defeated Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Duda Lisboa 21-17, 19-21, 15-10.

They also won the two most prestigious beach volleyball tournaments of 2016: the Rio Olympics and World Tour Finals.

“I’m speechless,” Ludwig said to reporters in Hamburg. “Being an Olympic champion is great, being a world champion is great, but winning the World Tour Finals here in front of the German fans in Hamburg was just awesome.”

Two U.S. teams, April Ross and Lauren Fendrick as well as Brooke Sweat and Summer Ross, finished tied for ninth in Hamburg.

Earlier this month, Ross and Fendrick earned the silver medal at the world beach volleyball championships, less than three months into their partnership. Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, said the pair will reevaluate their partnership at the end of this season.

On the men’s side, the U.S. pair of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena will play Poland’s Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak in the semifinals on Sunday.

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MORE: The beach volleyball player who turned down Kerri Walsh Jennings