April Ross, Alix Klineman into beach volleyball worlds final

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross reached her third world beach volleyball championships final with a third different partner.

Ross, 37, and Alix Klineman, 29, swept Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar 21-15, 21-18 in Friday’s semifinals, advancing to Saturday’s final (9:15 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA).

They will face Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, looking to become the first Americans to win a world title since Ross and Jennifer Kessy in 2009.

A decade ago, Ross was in her fourth pro season and her third with Kessy.

“I was new on the beach,” Ross told media at worlds in Hamburg. “It was just kind of like ignorance is bliss. We were firing on all cylinders and doing the best we can. Now I feel like there’s a method to the madness a little bit.”

Kessy, who earned Olympic silver with Ross in 2012, now coaches Ross and Klineman, who paired after Ross split from Rio Olympic bronze-medal partner Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017. Ross earned world silver in 2017 with Lauren Fendrick before partnering with Klineman later that year.

Klineman, the 2007 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year out of high school, is in just her second international season. The 6-foot-5 Klineman said that this season has brought “a wave of improvement.”

Earlier Friday, Ross and Klineman eliminated the other remaining U.S. women’s team of Sara Hughes and Summer Ross 21-18, 21-14 in the quarterfinals. Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, were eliminated in the round of 32 for Walsh Jennings’ earliest career exit at an Olympics or worlds.

All these results are key in Olympic qualifying, which is near the midpoint. Worlds carry the most Olympic qualifying points of any tournament in the two-year window, and only two pairs per country maximum go to Tokyo.

Ross and Klineman are in best position of the U.S. pairs. Walsh Jennings and Sweat and Hughes and Ross are among the teams also in the mix with nearly a year left in the qualifying window.

Two U.S. men’s teams are still alive at worlds — 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb. The men’s quarterfinals and semifinals are Saturday.

NBC Sports’ Seth Rubinroit contributed to this report from Hamburg.

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