Tri Bourne

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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Jake Gibb sets record as oldest man to win beach volleyball World Tour event

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Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb won their first FIVB World Tour event together and jumped to the front of the line of Olympic qualifying Sunday at the four-star event in Chetumal, Mexico.

Gibb is 43 years old and will be 44 when the Olympics start next year in Tokyo. He is aiming for his fourth appearance in the Olympics, having reached the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2012 with Sean Rosenthal and played in 2016 with Casey Patterson.

Gibb teamed up with Crabb in 2017 and found immediate success on the AVP Tour. This year on the AVP circuit, the pair won four of six events and never missed the podium.

Until Sunday, their best finish in FIVB play was fifth. In Mexico, after dropping a match in pool play, the pair rallied for a three-set win over the second seeds, Poland’s Michal Bryl and Grzegorz Fijalek, then took two straight-set wins before defeating top-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands 21-16, 16-21, 15-12 in the men’s final.

The win was worth 800 points in Olympic qualifying, moving the duo up to eighth overall and first among U.S. teams. Only two teams per country can qualify.

Crabb’s brother, Trevor Crabb, is in position to go to the Olympics as well. He and Tri Bourne took bronze in Mexico to move into second among U.S. teams.

The qualification chase still has a long way to go. The final rankings will be posted June 15. Lurking behind the Crabb brothers and their partners is the veteran duo of Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser, who reached the 2016 Olympic quarterfinals and had a torrid run in 2016-17 but struggled internationally this year. Lucena and Dalhausser will each be 40 years old during the 2020 Games.

In women’s play, Sarah Sponcil/Kelly Claes and Brooke Sweat/Kerri Walsh Jennings each placed fifth. April Ross and Alix Klineman are the top U.S. pair in the qualifying rankings, having won a Major Series event last year over Sweat and three-time Olympic champion Walsh Jennings, who stand fifth overall with Sponcil and Claes chasing them for the second U.S. berth.

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Russian men take beach volleyball world title; U.S. gets 4th

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Russia had not put multiple beach volleyball teams into an Olympics until 2008. It didn’t make an Olympic quarterfinal until 2016. But now it has a world title.

Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy ended a Cinderfella run by Germans Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler, taking gold, 19-21, 21-17, 15-11, in Hamburg on Sunday.

The Germans, without any international event titles, were looking to become the youngest male or female team to win an Olympic or world title. Instead, Krasilnikov, 28, and Stoyanovskiy, 22 and the youngest Olympic or world champion in history, scored a breakthrough for Russia.

Krasilnikov, who is 6 feet, 5 inches, had earned bronze at the 2017 Worlds and finished fourth at the Rio Games with different partners. He and the 6-foot-9 Stoyanovskiy paired 10 months ago and have reached the semifinals in seven of their nine international events.

Thole and Wickler nearly completed an incredible week.

In the four previous playoff rounds, the Germans beat 2013 World champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen, 2016 Olympic champion Alison and his new partner, Alvaro, 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena and the world’s alpha team, Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sørum.

“In no other stadium we would have won this game,” Wickler said of beating the Norwegian Beach Volley Vikings.

Mol and Sorum, who came into worlds having won eight of their last 11 international events, rebounded for bronze. They denied Americans Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb a surprise medal and extended the U.S. men’s Olympic and world podium drought to 10 years.

Bourne and Crabb’s best finish among the U.S. pairs boosts them in Olympic qualifying, which is past the halfway point. They’re in the mix with Dalhausser and Lucena and three-time Olympian Jake Gibb and Crabb’s brother, Taylor Crabb, for a maximum of two Olympic spots.

The FIVB World Tour continues with a five-star event in Gstaad, Switzerland, this week, featuring all of the major U.S. teams.

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings has earliest Olympic/worlds exit of career

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